Thursday, May 15, 2008

Biology--or Psychology??


It's a well-known fact that many men don't wash their hands in the restroom. Some women don't...but they hit the sinks in far larger numbers than men. A CNN study in 2007 showed that 1/3 of males in a public restroom did not wash their hands after they used the restroom.
Now...this post is not to debate the grossness, cleanliness, or other fermunga-related items with non-hand-washers. (hereafter to be termed NHW's) I don't want to ask the question of why don't they wash...but why DO they??
I'll give you my personal case study of using public restrooms at workplaces over the last 7 years. My previous company was a large manufacturing plant. The restroom that I frequented was what I would consider a "high traffic facility." It was a 5-stall/6-urinal/4-sink bathroom. At any given time there would be at least half of these things in use---high traffic. I would guesstimate that roughly 80-90% of men washed their hands in this restroom. Much higher than the CNN number.
Compare that with my new employer. Also a large manufacturing plant. I have found a very quaint restroom facility with very low traffic. It is a single stall/double urinal/single sink gem that lets you enjoy the restroom process without wondering if someone is going to knock on the stall to see if you're almost finished. At times when I am using the stall, I have guesstimated the number of NHW's who come in and use the urinals and not wash at close to 40%!! Why the large discrepancy between the two?
Let's look at our original question--Why DO men wash their hands? Well, the majority probably realize how important cleanliness is, and don't want to leave "undercarriage doorknob." But there is another group of guys (NHW's)....whom if you were to follow to their home--rarely wash in private, but always do in public places. Therein lies the answer--Accountability and Embarrassment. At my first employer, many others were in the restroom at the same time, and it would easily be noticed who did not wash their hands. At my current employer in the "cozy" restroom, there is nobody to notice if somebody just quickly "walked out" after zipping up. I mean..who wants to take the time to turn on the sink, get soap, and use a paper towel. There are many more important things to do...like shake some guys hand in the next meeting, or go make my sandwich for lunch.
There is a simple solution. Install red flashing lights outside every bathroom. Every time a toilet flushes, a sink must be turned on. If an NHW exits the bathroom without following this criteria, the red light starts flashing, and AC/DC's "dirty deeds done dirt cheap" start playing--thus a NHW is branded forever. I mean...even if you didn't want to wash--turn on the sink and fake it. Then...start watching those numbers hit 99% or more.

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