On January 23, 2011, housekeepers’ union UNITE HERE is asking the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to consider a new proposal to prevent disabling injuries in hotel room cleaners and save hotels money on workers compensation claims.
The proposed safety standard complements Senate Bill 432, a two-year bill that when introduced last year stirred considerable debate over why hotels too often fail to provide housekeepers with mops to clean floors and fitted sheets to make beds – basic tools nearly all Americans use in their homes.
It’s widely acknowledged by hotel companies and academic researchers that housekeeping can be dangerous work. Lifting mattresses that can weigh more than 100 pounds, pushing heavy carts across carpeted hallways, bending up and down to clean floors and make beds, and climbing to clean high surfaces all take a physical toll. Research has shown housekeepers suffer the highest injury rate among all classifications of hotel employees, and housekeepers are more likely to suffer musculoskeletal disorders than all other hotel employees.
Yet unlike other hazardous industries, there are no standards to address safety problems in the hotel industry. The proposed guideline lays out a simple plan for employers to follow using solutions already recommended by OSHA agencies in California and elsewhere.
As the hotel industry has modernized, the job has gotten more and more physically demanding for housekeepers,” said Pamela Vossenas, workplace safety and health expert for UNITE HERE. “In hotels where OSHA has investigated housekeeper injuries, inspectors have recommended simple solutions such as the use of fitted sheets and motorized linen carts to prevent injuries. Cal-OSHA cannot inspect every California hotel, so this Standard creates a systematic safety blueprint for hotels to follow to prevent housekeeping-specific injuries.”