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 10 Safety Mistakes Hotel Managers Make
And How to Avoid Them

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By: Diana S. Barber, Esq., July 2004

Every hotel and motel manager makes mistakes; thatís just part of being human.  All mistakes are costly; but some have a greater financial impact than others do.  The following list cites potentially costly security gaps most hoteliers are not aware of or havenít focused on - and should.

1.  Never cut back on security personnel.  In these times of cost containment and budget controls, security is the one area of your budget that should never be cut.  The financial impact of reducing or eliminating your security staff would be tremendous should a guest or employee be injured or damage to property occur.  In addition, eliminating or reducing security personnel sends the wrong message to staff members, namely that their safety is not of the highest importance to your business and that you are not watching them as closely.

2.  Have an evacuation route posted in your meeting room space.  Meeting rooms serve as gathering places for large groups of people who will most likely panic in the event of an emergency such as a hurricane, earthquake, bomb threat and so on.  In the event of a crisis, will your group function attendees know where to go and what to do? Have evacuation routes posted in meeting rooms for group attendees to see, and ask your sales and catering personnel to have detailed discussions with the meeting planners about evacuation procedures.

3.  Increase lighting throughout your property.  Look for physical areas on or around the property that do not have adequate lighting or are not secure, and address these issues immediately. Check your parking lots for areas where lighting needs improvement.  Ask your local law enforcement agency to do a security audit on your property.  Donít wait until someone falls or is injured to protect your guests, employees and your business.

4.  Continuously train employees. When it rains or snows and a guest slips and falls on your property, do your employees know the proper steps to take to protect the injured guest, not to make casual comments admitting liability and how to handle the situation?  Who is responsible for their training? Make it your objective to ensure that your employees receive adequate training on procedures for handling guest injuries.  Initial training and continuous ongoing training are critical.  One hour of training is not enough.  Keep detailed records of the procedures and training which can be used in your efforts to convince a litigious opposing party, and a judge, of your due diligence in safety training. 

5.  Comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.  Make sure all OSHA requirements and standards are met.  If you are not sure that you have all the latest information, take an updated course on compliance efforts.  The Internet has many resources for OSHA compliance courses available for hotels and motels.  Visually inspect to see that all necessary notices and posters are current and displayed appropriately, and not stuck behind other notices on the bulletin board.

6.  Keep back-up data off property.  Keep a copy of all property operations data stored off-site in a safe and secure location.  Do not rely on someoneís personal computer to house your employment, financial and guest data.  It is imperative to have access to guest records at all times - especially in the event of an emergency.

7.  Install phones in fitness centers.  All exercise or fitness rooms need to have a phone available to all guests that will dial immediately to the front desk. A security camera should also be installed so that injuries and problems that occur within the fitness facility can be immediately detected and addressed.   If security cameras are used, written procedures for their use must be in place.  Also:  Are the cameras staffed with trained professionals viewing the scene?  How often is the videotape reused?  Are the cameras in good working order or are they simply mounted as a decoy to provide a false sense of security to guests and employees?  

8.  Perform background checks on employees before hiring.   All managers, front desk personnel and security officers must have their background history checked to eliminate or minimize any unknown and undesirable discoveries once employed. An Internet search can assist in accomplishing this task very quickly.  Check driving records on employees hired to transfer guests to and from the airport or surrounding areas.  Select the best employees now and avoid future trouble.

9.  Check detection devices regularly.  Are sprinkler systems and smoke detectors working and in place, on all floors, in guestrooms and in all public spaces?  Is an emergency lighting system in place along with an emergency generator?  When was the last time you had these items checked? What is your back up plan if these devices should fail?  All such items need to be tested and certified on a monthly basis and the inspections need to be properly documented in writing.

10.  Check on emergency equipment periodically.  Does your property have automatic external defibrillators and oxygen tanks on site and are they in working order?  Have employees been trained to use these devices?  Make sure you conduct monthly inspections on these types of equipment, and have at least one CPR-trained employee on staff at all times.

These are but a few of the safety precautions being overlooked by many hotel and motels around the country.  Preventative measures are always preferred over litigation strategies. Your guests and employees expect and want an injury-free experience and work environment.  Implementing these steps, and reviewing them on a continuous basis, will go a long way in protecting your business.



Diana S. Barber, Esq.  is the founder of LodgeLaw, A Division of Barber Law Associates, a law firm specializing in hospitality law.  She also teaches at Cecil B. Day Hospitality School at Georgia State University and is a member of Georgia Hospitality & Travel Association.  For more information, Ms. Barber can be reached at (770) 813-9363, www.lodge-law.com or diana.barber@lodge-law.com.

This article contains general information. It is not designed to be and should not be relied on as your sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a specific legal issue. Each fact situation is different; the laws are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult with competent legal counsel.


 
 
Contact:
 Diana S. Barber, Esq. 
Barber Law Associates, P.C.
5925 Masters Club Drive 
Suwanee, GA  30024
(770) 813-9363 
diana.barber@lodge-law.com
www.lodge-law.com
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Also See: 10 Ways to Bulletproof Your Hotel Against Legal Attacks / Diana S. Barber / June 2004
Accepting Minor Guests in Your Hotel; A Checklist for Handling the Challenges of Underage Guests / Diana S. Barber / May 2004
High Speed Internet Access in Hotels; A New Amenity Opens Up New Liabilities / Diana S. Barber / March 2004
How to Safeguard Your Guests from Being the Next Identity Theft Victims / Diana S. Barber / February 2004
LodgeLaw, P.C., a Hospitality Specialty Law Firm, To Open in Northeast Atlanta; Firm President is former Ritz-Carlton Vice President and Associate General Counsel / June 2003


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