|By Rick Daysog, The Sacramento Bee,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 14, 2011--Nenita Ibe said the pain from a workplace injury wakes her up every night and makes it difficult to wash her hair and do other daily chores with her arms.
The 62-year-old hotel housekeeper said she injured her right shoulder in 2009 while lifting heavy hotel mattresses to change bedsheets. She injured her left shoulder earlier this year doing a similar task.
"My life has been just (difficult) because of this injury," said Ibe, who works for the Hyatt hotel in Santa Clara.
Ibe was one of several hotel housekeepers who testified Wednesday before the state Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations, which voted 5-2 to pass a measure that advocates say will greatly reduce the amount of workplace injuries among hotel housekeepers.
The bill, SB 432, calls for hotels to use fitted sheets that require less lifting of mattresses weighing up to 100 pounds than traditional flat sheets.
It also calls for hotels to use mops and long-handled tools so that housekeepers would no longer have to stoop or kneel to scrub bathrooms and floors.
The measure was introduced by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and backed by the California Applicants' Attorneys Association and the hotel workers union, UNITE HERE.
The proponents cited a 2002 study by the University of California, Berkeley's Labor Occupation Health Program, which found a high level of injuries among housekeepers.
The study noted that more than 75 percent of hotel workers who took part in the study reported workplace injuries and that 73 percent needed to see a doctor for those injuries.
The advocates also pointed to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine that showed injury rates for hotel housekeepers were higher than the norm, with 5.47 injuries per 100 workers.
The average for all industries was about 3.26 injuries per 100 employees.
"What we're talking about is broken backs, we're talking about sciatica, rotator cuff (injuries), we're talking about plantar fasciitis," said de Leon, whose mother was a housekeeper.
"This almost sounds like the NFL or the NBA. It's not. It's the hotel industry and hotel workers in the state of California."
The California Hotel & Lodging Association and several other hospitality organizations opposed the bill, saying the fitted-sheet requirement alone will cost the industry about $15 million.
Randi Knott, a vice president with the hotel association, said in recent years hotels have seen fewer injuries due to changing bedsheets.
Knott said hotel operators nowadays provide ergonomic training for housekeepers and provide tools such as bed wedges that make it easier to lift mattresses.
The recent push toward green lodging practices, which allow guests to opt out of daily maid services, has greatly reduced sheet changing services, she said.
The bill next goes to the Senate Appropriations committee.
Call The Bee's Rick Daysog, (916) 321-1207.
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