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International Housekeeping Week was months ago, and attention has turned back to the tasks at hand. But hotel housekeepers have one of the most physically demanding jobs, and no matter how hard they work, often they are going to leave rooms that are not completely clean. Even when there are “clean room” competitions, some rooms will be better than others, and housekeepers will still be at risk for injuries and illnesses.
Risks identified at our hospitality clients include housekeepers placing plugged-in hair dryers into bathroom sinks, housekeepers climbing onto bathtubs, toilets, counters and bunk beds. Housekeepers have been observed sticking their heads (practically) into guest room toilets in order to clean them, thus increasing their risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
We have seen work methods that have cross-contaminated entire floors of rooms. General Managers, Operations Managers, and Housekeepers have discussed their encounters with used hypodermic needles hidden under mattresses. These present the risk for needle sticks and further potential exposures to bloodborne pathogens from simply changing the sheets – that is why in 2018 we invented Ergo Tuck® for better bed making. Not only does Ergo Tuck® reduce the risks for needle sticks, but it also reduces the time to make beds by nearly 30-seconds per bed. This can save properties tens or hundreds of thousands in labor costs each year…and improve the guest experience with a better-looking bed!
Exposures that could lead to electrical fires and the destruction of a property have been identified. In an age of environmental sustainability and awareness, situations that could result in chemical spills into water treatment systems have been uncovered.
Independent, third-party risk assessments have proven to be beneficial in other industries, and hospitality should be no exception. When attention is paid to finding and addressing risks to life, limb and property, costs go down and profits increase.
This focus on risk works everywhere. When the U.S. company Alcoa started to focus on the risks that caused employees to get hurt, maimed, or killed, financial investors were horrified. But after a few years, profits had increased fivefold, and investors were impressed.
Given that the average return on investment (ROI) in the hospitality industry is about 5%, even doubling a hospitality property’s ROI would make an enormous impact.
To focus on risks in hospitality, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) implemented a mandatory Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Program Standard for Hotel Housekeepers (MIPP) in 2018. This MIPP Standard affects every Hotel, Inn, and Bed & Breakfast in the state.
Most occupational health and safety regulations are written to address hazards across all industries; however, this is the first occupationally-focused ergonomics regulation of its kind, and is focused only on hospitality.
The requirements of the Standard are specific. These include a Written Program, annual Worksite Assessments and Hazard Identification & Analysis, Improvements to Tasks, plus annual Housekeeper, Supervisor & Manager Training. There is also a Recordkeeping & Reporting requirement.
Since this Standard was implemented, our team has performed hundreds of housekeeping task assessments, trained thousands of housekeepers, and identified thousands of possible improvements to equipment and work methods.
We have developed and use a proprietary hospitality assessment app to methodically assess housekeeping tasks. We can travel to and use this app nearly anywhere in the world. The assessments focus on the tasks and risks at hand and document the findings.
Housekeepers stretch and contort their bodies like Olympic gymnasts yet are often unable to effectively clean their guest rooms. They are asked to clean surfaces they are unable to reach, move carts that in some cases outweigh or are taller than them, and frequently place themselves at risk of contracting life-changing illnesses or debilitating injuries.
This presents conscientious housekeepers with a conundrum. If housekeepers do everything exactly as they are supposed to, then they are going to experience even higher rates of injuries and illnesses. But if they work only to their safe physical abilities, the rooms will not be adequately cleaned, and the risk for lower guest satisfaction ratings will be greater.
We have conducted hundreds of annual assessments and and have made thousands of recommendations. As a result, our clients have improved both the tools and work methods used by housekeepers. “Our” housekeepers know that we care, and they embrace their improved work methods and better tools.
The assessment findings are also used in our annual housekeeper and manager training courses, which are key to a successful outcome. The more housekeepers and their managers know about having the right tools and using good work methods, the more success they will have. We have also seen housekeepers “compete” for the chance to participate in our onsite third-party assessments, because they see the value in them.
We have a Risk Assessment approach that is ala carte, for specific risks, beyond housekeeping, that occur in hospitality settings. These include a Best Practice Programs & Compliance Assessment, a Property Safety/Security/General Liability Assessment, and a Department Management and Safety Assessment.