Ohio State design team comes up with safer spray-bottle

September 27, 2012

Spray bottles and little kids don’t mix. 

After conducting a multi-year study, researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that each year, a large number of children under the age of five were injured by pointing spray bottles directly at their own faces. Children unable to reach the trigger with one hand would simply push it by using both thumbs, resulting in serious injury. 

“The research team from Children’s Hospital, led by Dr. Lara McKenzie, wanted to find a solution to the problem,” said Carolina Gill, Associate Professor of Industrial Design. “They found that while a lot of child-resistant packages have had a significant impact in lowering the number of injuries to children, the incidents with spray bottles have not changed in the last ten years. Their idea was to create a safety lock for the spray mechanism to be disabled in a similar way as cigarette lighters are.”
Gill and Associate Professor of Industrial Design Scott Shim, along with graduate student Thornton Lothrop, tackled the problem. They conducted field research at the hospital by observing groups of children and how they approached spray bottles, and moved forward with several possible solutions. 
The Industrial Design group collaborated with Blaine Lilly, Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, to develop working prototypes. By the end of 2011, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital/Ohio State team agreed on a design to pursue.
“We devised a solution that will make the bottle difficult for children to use but not impossible for adults to operate,” Gill said. “We designed a small lever on the back of the bottle that disengages a lock on the spray trigger, and automatically locks back up when spraying is complete. Our research showed that most adults do not turn the nozzle back to the off position so our goal was to make it comfortable for adults to use while eliminating the need for locking and unlocking the device”.
The prototype was tested by children and adults at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Ohio State’s Office of Technology Commercialization, along with Children’s Hospital, have patented the mechanism and the design, and are working together to develop commercial interest in the product.

Children testing spray-bottle prototypes

Spray-bottle prototype rendering