|Hyatt Housekeepers Ask California Board to Advance Safety Rules to End Backbreaking Practices|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
SACRAMENTO – Housekeepers from Hyatt Hotels will go before California regulators Thursday, May 17, asking them to advance an occupational health and safety rule designed to prevent backbreaking injuries in hotel housekeepers and save hotels money on workers compensation claims.
Hotel room cleaners have petitioned the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, the state board authorized to adopt workplace safety measures, to implement a standard to address safety problems in the hotel industry.California OSHA staff and Standards Board staff recognize that strain and sprain injuries occur and have already voiced support to move the proposed safety measure to an advisory committee where hotel employers, housekeepers, the medical community and others could give their input and voice their concerns openly.
The proposed measure complements CA 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 heavy mattresses, pushing carts laden with supplies across carpeted hallways, bending up and down to clean floors and strip dirty linens, 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 studied, and housekeepers are more likely to suffer musculoskeletal disorders than all other hotel employees.
The proposed guideline to be discussed Thursday lays out a simple plan for employers to follow using solutions already recommended by OSHA agencies in California and elsewhere.
“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 identified the physical hazards of housekeeping work and recommended remedies. It’s time that a housekeeping-specific safety plan be spelled out in the law,” said Pamela Vossenas, workplace safety and health expert for UNITE HERE.
The discussion over the safety standard comes after the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued this month a letter to Hyatt Hotels Corporation, notifying the company of ergonomic risk factors faced by housekeepers in the course of their daily work. The letter recommends simple control measures for Hyatt to take to reduce the ergonomic strain of housekeeping labor.
The proposed standard asks employers to conduct housekeeping hazard assessments, outlaws practices that require housekeepers to clean on their knees or in a “stooped” body position or to stand on sinks or tubs to clean up high.Proposed safe practices include the use of fitted sheets in lieu of flat sheets to minimize back bending and mattress lifting,and long-handled tools to clean hard to reach areas.
“Recently, my doctor at Kaiser started me on physical therapy because she said I’m showing signs of strain and sprain injuries,” said Cathy Youngblood, a Hyatt Andaz housekeeper. Steps must be taken to stop the backbreaking practices and prevent further injuries from taking place.”
In a peer-reviewed study, results found that 95% of housekeepers suffered from bodily pain, 47% suffered from severe or very severe pain, and 84% took medication for pain suffered at work.
Cal-OSHA Standards Board will vote at its business meeting on May 17, 2012 whether or not to move the proposed standard to an advisory committee so all interested parties could discuss what measures and alternatives should be included.