The Importance of Designing Door Safety in Schools

27th April 2015

The Importance of Designing Door Safety in Schools

Prevention is better than cure. At school, children are vaccinated against diseases, taught not to talk to strangers and given hygiene education. So isn’t it important that schools take the same pre-emptive approach when it comes to building design?

Door safety is a key area of consideration in building safety, and so should be a fundamental part of design. Attempting to retroactively adhere to ever-changing safety regulations can be difficult and tiresome – not to mention expensive. So why not proactively include door safety in the design and be secure in the knowledge that all bases, both in terms of safety and legislation, are covered?


The primary danger to take into account, and the one that is covered by the most extensive legislation, is fire.

The law currently states that any door located on an escape route from rooms with an occupant capacity of 60 or more must be lockless or be built with ‘panic fastenings’¹ – this includes equipment like push bars that allow a locked door to be opened easily. Whilst the average UK classroom only contains 25 pupils, the hallways and corridors that children flood into when the bell goes must be built to facilitate the escape of much larger numbers. Built-in equipment that ensures a door can be opened quickly, by anyone, could mean the few seconds that separate life and death.

Intricate planning of any areas that are likely to experience large amounts of traffic is fundamental to ensuring the safety of a building’s occupants. This is never truer than in a school where, should the correct precautions not have been taken, many of the occupants may not be physically able to escape in an emergency.

Equally, because these busy thoroughfares are in constant use, the doors in them are constantly opening and closing, potentially leading to the kinds of accidents, including finger-trapping, described below. Simply leaving them open is not an option as wedging a fire door open is illegal. So, including equipment such as fire door retainers which works by automatically closing the door as soon as the fire alarm sounds, is a great way to allow for an easy flow of foot traffic, whilst ensuring fire doors effectively segment corridors and hallways in an emergency. Details such as this are best addressed early on, not as an afterthought.

Finger Trappings

More than 30,000 children trap their fingers in doors each year. The majority of those affected are under the age of 8. This means that, especially in schools, measures to prevent such incidents are incredibly important.

It’s also an area that highlights the significance of intelligent safety design that caters to the building and its visitors; not simply to the adherence of health and safety regulations. Though there are no explicit regulations that make guards compulsory, the consequences of overlooking them can be substantial – UK schools have paid out £97,561 in compensation due to finger-related injuries over the last 5 years (ELAS, 2014).

In the case of a charity that runs a primary school in Bolton, failing to install finger-guards on their doors led to a serious, yet entirely avoidable, incident. When a boy of 9 lost his finger after getting it trapped in an unprotected door, the charity was taken to court. It was heard that, having identified the need for finger-guards, the charity had failed to install the necessary equipment by the time the school opened in September 2012. Compensation pay-outs for such cases reach up to £7000, not to mention the damage done to the children affected. Considering that the price of Cardea Fingershields range from £109.95 (Fingershield Pro XL) to as little as £23.95 (Fingershield), the cost of prevention pales in comparison to the price of doing nothing.

Considering these issues whilst at the design stage allows for safety measures to be tailored to the kind of children each school needs to cater for. For instance, a study by Dr N. Doraiswamy found that younger children are more likely to crush their fingers on the hinge side of a door and older children on the lock side². So, if designing for a primary school it may be better to opt for products like those mentioned above, whereas an older age group may require lock-side protection such as the Cardea Happy Hands.

Whether in a new-build or a refurbishment, door safety is an important part of design. To best ensure the well-being of a school’s staff and students, consideration of it, at an early stage, is crucial. Request a FREE door survey >

¹ ‘Building Bulletin 100: Design For Fire Safety in Schools, Department of Children, Schools and Families

² ‘Childhood finger injuries and safeguards’, US National Library of Medicine