Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics






Pepper spray design, Pepper spray usage, Self-defense device, Usability, Perception


Ergonomics | Industrial Engineering | Industrial Technology


Pepper spray is widely used in the US, and is marketed as an effective self-defense device. While pepper spray can be useful in deterring an attacker, many pepper spray owners do not have any experience using it. There is a dearth of published studies that focus on civilian pepper-spray use, not to mention first time pepper-spray users. A study to analyze pepper-spray designs with first-time users, to see how the design, specifically the safety mechanism, affects response time and overall performance would be helpful. The study was conducted in 2 parts – a survey to understand user perception, and a lab experiment using a 2 × 2 randomized block design with two designs of pepper sprays (side-slide safety and flip-top safety) and the two starting locations for the pepper spray (purse or pocket) as the manipulated factors. Results revealed a significant difference in response times between the flip-top pepper-spray and the side-slide pepper-spray. There was also a significant difference in response times between using the index or thumb as the trigger finger but no significant difference in response times when the pepper-spray for location (purse or pocket). Overall, participants rated the side-slide device as the most effective self-defense device.

Relevance to industry

Because there is no other research in the area of first-time pepper-spray users, let alone civilian pepper-spray users, much can be learned about how well people use these devices in a real-world situation, and when there is a highly stressful situation how well does pepper-spray allow an individual to protect him or herself. This study starts the discussion on some of these topics.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.