The recent Hotel Management magazine article on hotel employee safety was important for everyone involved in the industry but the focus of this post is specifically on the housekeepers.
The job of a housekeeper is not an easy one. Countless stresses on muscles and joints in a single day, everything from lifting heavy mattresses and bending over to clean floors or empty waste baskets to pushing heavy, bulky carts through a maze of hallways. Handling potentially hazardous cleaning agents. Working alone in hallways, on elevators or in guest rooms.
Despite formal training programs and on-property security systems, service workers in our modern economy continue to be among the most vulnerable to on-the-job injuries, as well as personal threats, including sexual harassment and outright attacks. Fortunately, hoteliers and regulators are responding with new programs and legislative directives to address housekeeper health and safety.
This September 2018, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), in conjunction with Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Wyndham announced a 5-Star Promise safety program.
Among the Promises are ongoing training and education for employees on identifying and reporting sexual harassment; and providing U.S. hotel employees, including housekeepers, with employee safety devices “to help them feel safe on the job.”
Several individual jurisdictions already have personal device requirements, either by law or by practice. However, the 5-Star Promise should accelerate the adoption of alert devices by the hotel industry, especially for staff working in guest rooms. As this implementation takes place, it may be helpful to consider the following:
- Wearable devices make the most sense at the present time, as they are proven to be successful (think of those Medical Alert devices marketed to seniors) and won’t suffer from WiFi blind spots as a smart phone app might.
- Wearable devices will be helpful in “non-attack” situations should a housekeeper have a medical emergency or personal injury on the job.
- Alert devices are only as effective as the emergency response system backing them up. Hotels should assign responsible first responders for each shift, most likely the general manager or assistant general manager on duty.
- Emergency response should be practiced regularly, just like fire drills, so everyone on the hospitality team knows what to do should a personal alert be initiated.
- Respond, resolve and document are keys to a successful system.
Ergonomics, also, a concern. New California legislation.
As indicated earlier, hotel housekeepers are also liable to bodily stresses and strains from all the lifting, bending, carrying and pushing that are part of a regular workday. Of states, California recently addressed potential injury issues, as well as the use of hazardous chemicals, through comprehensive new legislation established specifically for hospitality housekeepers that took effect this July 2018. (Section 3345, Hotel Housekeeping Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention).
The act mandates that each property have a musculoskeletal injury prevention program (MIPP), with documented training and annual reassessments of all employees. Training programs must be set up by October 2018.
Legislation like that just discussed will formalize and mandate many of the best housekeeping practices already in operation at hotels nationwide. It will also direct our attention to a closer study of the daily routines of housekeepers, which should help us find practical ways to reduce stresses and strains on the body, as well as mind and spirit.
In the modern hospitality environment, the performance and personality of the housekeeper goes a long way toward defining the guest experience. In an era when a guest may even bypass the front desk for check-in and checkout, a clean bathroom, a properly made bed and a genuine smile and friendly voice upon meeting goes a long ways on that guest satisfaction index.
We want to make sure that these team members are secure on the job and enjoy what they are doing. Bend, not break, reach, not strain, safe, not sorry must be among our housekeeping watchwords.