Keeping Hotel Staff Safe

By David Quezada Vice President - Loss Control, EMPLOYERS | November 13, 2016

More than three million workplace injuries were reported in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of these, 75 percent occurred in service industries, which includes hotels, restaurants and bars. Workplace injuries and illnesses can have many negative repercussions, including potential litigation, higher workers' compensation premiums, employee turnover and low morale. Businesses with unsafe working conditions can also be subject to fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – and the penalties for non-compliance just got a lot higher.

In August 2016, OSHA stiffened compliance requirements and increased maximum fines for the first time in 26 years. This one-time catch-up adjustment is based on the percentage difference between the Consumer Price Index in October 1990 and October 2015 – resulting in a maximum penalty increase of nearly 80 percent. Willful and/or repeated violations are now subject to a maximum fine of $124,709, up from $70,000. Lesser offenses and one-time infractions now carry a maximum penalty of $12,471, an increase from $7,000, for each day the business remains out of compliance. After this initial adjustment, OSHA will be required to increase the fines annually to account for inflation.

The recent penalty hikes and OSHA's stepped-up enforcement agenda mean employers are at increased risk for inspections and citations. OSHA inspections usually happen without advance notice. Although employee complaints are one of the most common triggers, referrals can also happen as a result of a government agency report or as part of follow-up to a prior inspection.
While any hotel worker could experience a workplace injury or illness, the most at-risk are maids and housekeeping workers, followed by dishwashers, kitchen staff and servers.

Here are seven potential workplace hazards that these employees might face, as well as practical suggestions to reduce each risk.

Hazardous materials. In June 2015, OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) updated its label standards to include pictograms. The additional label requirements are more specific and make the labels easier to understand, particularly for people who are less fluent in English. All products must be labeled to include:

  • Manufacturer's name, address and telephone number
  • Product identifier
  • Signal word (either "danger" or "warning" based on level of toxicity)
  • Hazard statements
  • Precautionary statements
  • Pictograms
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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.