By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.hotelmogel.com)
The housekeeping department more often than not represents the heart of a hotel’s operations as a clean room is an essential part of guest service delivery. Moreover, it’s backbreaking work with wages that aren’t exceedingly high, while the room attendants themselves can be put in compromising situations as they roam the corridors by themselves.
It would appear, though, that labor unions throughout the United States are starting to gain ground with new legislation in several territories that mandate enhanced protocols for housekeepers’ safety. Given this momentum, no matter your municipality, state or country, you would be wise to keep track of these new laws and preemptively make the necessary changes to your operations so that you don’t have to play the costlier catch up game later on.
On the one hand are the now-required panic buttons for room attendants, most prominently coming into effect for all hotels in Chicago and with rollouts in several other key cities. Given the way IoT technologies are progressing, equipping your entire team with small devices that can perform this function as well as integrate into your WiFi network should not be onerous. Plus, we’re talking about mitigating a security risk, so everyone wins.
More complex and comprehensive, California has just ratified a new law requiring specific training of housekeepers to help prevent the onset of musculoskeletal injuries as well as instructions on proper use of hazardous chemicals, all for the benefit of protecting workers from chronic medical conditions.
These new programs must be specifically designed to help reduce the onset of bodily injuries through proper training for all employees, and all training must be recorded for the government to give its stamp of approval. Moreover, these regulations apply to outsourced labor – anyone who works on-property.
All the mandated safety and training programs must be set up by October 2018 with hefty fines for hotels that are not compliant (roughly $13,000 USD per incidence for first-time offenders to $130,000 USD for willful or repeated violations).
In terms of what’s required for Californians, the core of this new legislation is the setup and enforcement of a musculoskeletal injury prevention program (MIPP). Starting with periodic evaluations of any potential onsite risks, hotels are also required to create a pervasive reporting structure for all occupational injuries as well as all steps taken to prevent onsite injuries.
These MIPPs must involve extensive training of both the room attendants along with their supervisors on SOPs and proper ergonomic movements with annual retesting. Conducted in a language that the worker readily understands, everyone must now be educated and intermittently updated on the risk factors and symptoms of workplace injuries.
Putting the housekeepers aside for a moment, an unhappy team can cause a serious disruption to the bottom line. A stressful environment means low morale which in turn means lower employee retention, pesky staffing issues and extra resources devoted to onboarding. Moreover, short-term disability leaves resulting from repetitive motion injuries (RMIs) or prolonged exposure to chemicals can also result in additional staffing problems, not to mention the possibility of insurance payouts.
So, what can you do? As a start, you should monitor how events unfold in California and other territories where the panic button is now in effect over the next several months. With an aging workforce and more conclusive data to support labor unions’ petitions across the nation, you may soon be compelled to act. From there, it would be prudent to investigate your options, then put in place your own panic button and MIPP equivalents as the benefits to your bottom line from having a healthier, safer workplace are clearer now than ever before.
To read all the exact details and guidelines of this new law in California, go here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/oshsb/documents/Hotel-Housekeeping-Musculoskeletal-Injury-Prevention-proptxt.pdf
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