Hotel Guest Injuries: Managing the Seen and Unseen Risks
By Kurt Meister Senior Vice President , Distinguished Programs | April 21, 2019
If I asked you to name the biggest risk exposure your hotel faces, you'd likely answer the threat of a slip-or-fall claim. And by volume, you'd be right. But what if I asked you to name the top uncovered exposure for a United States hotel? The answer would likely surprise you.
The fact is, legionella - that often misunderstood but potentially disastrous bacterium - has been increasingly in the news, and reported incidents have been on the rise. In mid-January, an attorney sued a Texas hotel after he contracted Legionnaires' disease. Days later, four cases of legionella were potentially linked to a Minnesota hotel. And just days after that, a family sued a Southern California hotel after the father died from Legionnaires' disease. Legionella can be fatal. It can affect many people quickly. It can create multimillion-dollar claims. And it may be excluded from your hotel's insurance coverage.
Let's explore how you can keep your guests safe from legionella and other risks for injury, and how you can safeguard your hotel from such situations.
To understand the risks of legionella, you must first understand what it is. Legionella is a form of bacteria that can cause a serious type of pneumonia (Legionnaires' disease) or a less-serious condition called Pontiac fever. It does not spread from person to person. Instead, it spreads when people breathe in a mist or vapor containing legionella.
The bacteria grow best in warm waters like those found in hotel showers, hot tubs, cooling towers, pools, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, decorative fountains and even restaurant misters. In most cases, performing regular preventive maintenance and routine disinfection of all cooling towers and plumbing systems will help you prevent this silent menace. Be sure to contract with a licensed and insured company to perform routine testing of your hotel's pools, HVAC system and potable water. You'll also want to ask that company to carry appropriate liability limits in their contract to protect against any potential legionella outbreak.