These Hands-Free Door Handles Should Be Used Everywhere

Yesterday, Reuters reported that a grocery store in Finland is currently piloting a new design for the handles on their refrigerator and freezer doors, allowing customers to open and close the cases with their forearm rather than their hand—a move intended to minimize the spread of germs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The handles are not replacing what's already there, but supplementing it, which presumably makes it an easier and cheaper solution to mitigate disease transmission at a time when grocery shopping (and, of course, working at grocery stores) puts all of us in a vulnerable position. Like increased hand-washing, small interventions like these door handles will be useful long into the future, well after the current outbreak has curtailed.

Moreover, one shopper mentions in the video, "I think people with disabilities could use this." These grocery cases are, perhaps by happy accident, an example of universal design, in which the greatest number of people benefit from an accessible environment. Those without hands or grip strength might find the new design much easier to use.

A manager at the shop said that the store is awaiting feedback from customers before deciding whether to install the handles at other locations. But shoppers in the video certainly seem to like the new system, or at least don't mind it being an option. (After all, you can still yank on the handles the old-fashioned way if you're so inclined.) It will be interesting to see data on how much this curbs the spread of germs. And maybe this story will inspire someone to design new contactless solutions for grocery carts, too.