BEND, Ore. — To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases, a roofing contractor has created a free and simple way to open doors using feet instead of hands.
Public objects like metal doorknobs and handles tend to house bacteria and viruses unless they’re regularly sanitized. This has caused people to figure out ways of avoiding touching such objects to prevent catching or spreading COVID-19. Add the fact that the coronavirus can live on stainless steel for up to three days — a common material used to create doorknobs — it presents a problem.
In light of this, Thomas Hunziker, president and owner of AM-1 Roofing in Bend, Ore., wanted to come up with a way to avoid using hands to open doors at his offices. He told NBC-affiliated KTVZ that he initially thought of using elbows, but ran into problems.
“One of my people said, ‘Well, Thomas, that doesn’t work,’” Hunziker told KTVZ. “Because I was thinking about using our elbow, and people sneeze in their elbows, and it could make matters worse. So I figured, we can use our feet to open the door.”
That’s when Hunziker came upon some spare metal clips used in metal roofing, leading him to create a foot handle that he attached to the bottom of AM-1 Roofing’s office door. To make the foot handle work, he taped the latch so the door will remain open. With the door unable to latch, people place their foot on the handle to pull the door open, then hook their foot around the door to pull it closed.
He noted the tape can lead to security issues, so it’s just a matter of removing the tape at the end of the day to secure the door.
“It takes one mistake, and this way, it’s cut and dry,” he told KTVZ. “Our policy now says ‘Do not touch doorknobs,’ that’s it, end of story, so we can actually do that. And it’s a heck of a lot easier than sanitizing, sanitizing, sanitizing.”
AM-1 Roofing has been operating for 27 years, with the majority of work being commercial projects. Hunziker said they haven't experienced much slowdown in projects yet due to the virus, but have had to send workers home over concerns of having COVID-19. He said guidelines from authorities on how to deal with sick workers have been fairly vague, which is part of what led to inventing the foot door handle.
"It's a challenge because you have a contract, the government lets you work but you only have two-thirds of the people you have, and you can't really do anything about it," he said. "I don't think we're going to lay anyone off, so we're hoping they're all here, but we're down because of the illness."
Hunziker is offering his metal foot handle solution to people in his community at no charge. He said if enough people show interest in installing the foot handles on their doors, he will leave a box of extra metal plates and screws outside AM-1 Roofing’s office.
"It's surprising how many people don't worry about it — every project I go to everyone touches the doorknob, and I'm going, 'What the heck, people?'" he said. "This is definitely a tool, in my opinion, that every business ought to have."