Flu season is coming, so here are some photographs to highlight one of my pet peeves, bathroom design that promotes disease transmission. I post with the hope that somebody with true influence over architects will someday link to this post. My pet peeve: bathroom doors hinged in a way that require people to touch the handle or knob to exit. I’m sure there are fire code reasons why architects specify for this, but it’s strange (remote risk of fire vs real and daily risk of disease). I designed a graphic to highlight the issue:
In other words, when you touch the handle, you will most likely pick up viruses and bacteria left by the people who didn’t wash their hands (and those people might be really sick). Really: research has shown that door handles have more bacteria than (gasp) toilet seats. But even if architects are required by law to hinge doors to pull in, I think all bathrooms should be equipped with signage like the above, with perhaps additional verbiage about using a paper towel or shirt to open the door to educate people who don’t normally think about such things (you should do this if you don’t already; photo).
Compounding the above problem is the fad of equipping bathrooms with only electric hand dryers (“Saves the environment!”). Because cheap hand dryers take about 3 minutes to dry your hands, many people opt to just exit the bathroom without washing their hands. Or at least guys opt out…I don’t hang out in women’s restrooms that often. This means that the handle or knob is going to get a lot more use from hands that are coated in microbial nasties. (Somebody needs to compare bacterial counts on handles in paper-free and paper-provided bathrooms…let me know what you find.) Here’s a graphic I designed for the machines:
So: my plea to people in power is for doors to be hinged so that mere pushing (e.g., with shoulder) allows exiting. And for paper towels to be provided. Or, if that is too costly, then for installation of signage that truly informs bathroom users about bad bathroom design and what they can do about it. If you work in a hospital and have both MRSA and immune-suppressed patients, you definitely need signage like this. It’s cheaper than installing a door handle sanitizer, I’d wager.
If you like the idea of signage but are worried about selling it at your institution, here is a great article to send to your colleagues and staff. Signage makes a difference, but edgy signage makes more of a difference.
If the Bathroom Signage Committee at your workplace is packed with people averse to anything novel, don’t worry, you can do it yourself! Just download the door signage and hand dryer signage files (PDFs), then print onto 4 x 6″ paper. I recommend 3M’s removable adhesive labels (#6200), which are essentially Post-Its you feed into your inkjet or laser writer. I love these sheets for stealth stickering projects when I don’t want to permanently annoy people. Then, of course, you need to sneak the stickers into the bathrooms at your workplace. If you place them carefully and all at once, people will assume somebody in charge mandated the change and they will have a better chance of staying up. Good luck, and have fun.
NOTE: the signage above was installed at Swarthmore College. They lasted about a week before they take down by order from above. Now they are back to zero signage, and are promoting disease transmission. Hey, I tried!
Please share with your friends, folks.