January 21, 2010
Germaphobes rejoice! Alternatives to touching the WC door at work
Despite the threat of communicable diseases like swine flu, we humans are not the most sanitary sort. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in October found that only 32 percent of men and 64 percent of women wash their hands with soap after using a public restroom.
We're not just talking about a handful of people neglecting this basic hygiene principle. For this study, researchers secretly observed the hand-washing habits of a quarter million people at British gas station restrooms over a 32-day period. (Curiously, people were much more likely to wash their hands when reminded to soap up by a sign on the wall.)
But the British aren't the only ones guilty of unwashed hands. In September, the Soap and Detergent Association gave Americans a B- in hand hygiene. In a 2009 phone survey of 888 U.S. adults conducted by a third-party research firm, the association found that only 26 percent of people consistently washed their hands after coughing or sneezing. What's more, a 2007 study sponsored by the Soap and Detergent Association in conjunction with the American Society for Microbiology found that only 77 percent of us wash our hands after using a public restroom -- at all.
I know many of you use your shirt or a paper towel to open the restroom door at work after washing your hands. (I don't judge. I'm one of you.) And I apologize if the above statistics have you considering investing in a hazmat suit. There may, however, be a more reasonable solution: A couple of companies now offer products that allow you to open a restroom door without so much as laying a finger on it.
StepNpull sells a gadget that allows you to open an inward-swinging door with your foot (video here). Cost: $29.95 each, with bulk discounts available. (Note that this gadget won't work on a door with a knob.) And Sanidoor offers a high-tech spin on hands-free door opening: a sensor you wave your hand in front of, much like you would an automatic sink or towel dispenser (video here). Cost: $850 for each sensor (door not included), plus $250-$350 for installation of each unit.
For those who think their employer won't spring for such contraptions, you might want to remind them that workers who come in sick and spread their germs around -- including through bathroom door handles -- cost companies thousands of dollars in lost productivity each year.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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