How to Increase Hand Sanitizer Use with ABA


By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

President, bSci21Media, LLC

A college cafeteria is filled with germs.  Thousands of people a week come in and out, their hands having been who-knows-where.  Those hands touch the same counters, trays, tables, and chairs that you do.  People sneeze and cough.  You get the picture.

How often do you think people actually wash their hands in these places?  According to Fournier and Berry in the journal Behavior and Social Issues, not many.  But, fear not, for they have a solution.

Research assistants hung around a college cafeteria for seven weeks, unobtrusively observing approximately 208 students per day.  During the initial baseline phase, consisting of a hand sanitizer dispenser alone, no students utilized the dispenser.  However, when the researchers added an informational poster and a research assistant actively promoting the use of sanitizer, use increased to over 60% of the population.   Finally, when the promoter was removed to leave only the informational poster, use decreased to approx. 17%.  

Fournier and Berry point out that the intervention was cheap, totaling approx. $55.00 for the dispenser and informational poster.  However, the research assistant promoting the sanitizer was unpaid.  The question for the future, then, is how to maximize sanitizer use as efficiently as possible.  The informational poster produced modest effects, but the in-person promotion produced much higher effects.  A poster is cheap, but a promoter is more expensive and logistically challenging.  One solution, says the authors, is to incorporate sanitizer promotion into the duties of cafeteria staff.

Let us know if you think this type of intervention would be useful in your organization and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns and  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

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