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