To Reduce Comp Claims in Hotels, Alter Room Arrangement and House Keeping Duties

Published: 15th October 2009
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Historically Housework has not been an activity that is considered backbreaking, but for those who do it 40 hours a week, it can be.

Hotel housekeepers are at great risk for spinal cord injuries. This type of injury is one of the most expensive types of claims for a hotels workers compensation program.

While researching job groups at the highest risk for spinal cord injuries The Biodynamics Lab at Ohio State University's Institute for Ergonomics discovered that hotel housekeepers were among the top groups at risk for this type of injury. The Biodymanics Lab studied the manner in which housekeepers at branded hotels in the Columbus area lifted, and examined the manner in which they moved during the process of cleaning a hotel room. They discovered that it was indeed a high-risk occupation for spinal injuries. They also conducted the same research in Chicago and Philadelphia for hotels workers unions in these cities and discovered that results were the same high risk of back injuries.

We all make beds, change linen, vacuum & clean bedrooms and bathrooms. The institute never thought that it would be a high-risk job for a person.

O.S.H.A. logs were studied and then made an assessment of risk injury by studying the housekeeper's actions room to room and documenting what they saw as the necessary duties of their job to classify the risk by category.

Observing hotel housekeepers doing their daily routines brought to light the amount of twisting, turning, lifting, and leaning they do day to day. The probability of a lower back disorder from making a bed was 74 percent. On an average a hotel housekeeper performs over 200 exertions per room. Job duties such as picking up corners of mattresses to tuck in sheets, maneuvering around the furniture to make the bed, the reaching, bending, and twisting all puts a strain on the spine.

The arrangement of the furniture and limited space of the hotel rooms forces them to assume very difficult positions.

Research showed that there is a 70 percent chance of lower back injury from cleaning the bathroom.

Add to this the doorways, thresholds; even elevators will make pushing or pulling it more strenuous on the spinal area.

Room design is causing housekeepers to place themselves into positions to cause injury, during performance of usual tasks. Nightstands & desks pushed too close to the bed, luxury mattresses that are thicker and heavier, and items at the foot of the bed also add to these precarious positions. Bathroom sanitation contributes greatly to lower back injuries, where housekeepers take awkward positions to reach across the bathtub to replace bath articles and clean hard-to-reach areas in tight spaces.

The Biodynamic's Lab states that they discovered, the probability of lower back injury risk of 70 percent related to cleaning the bathroom, with the highest risk is with cleaning the shower tiles.

They discovered during their study that back problems can even develop from different jobs such as dusting and vacuuming, which both put stress on the lower back and spine. The use of housekeeping carts, which are heavy and must be pushed over thresholds of rooms and closets, can cause different injuries to the spine depending on how they are operated.

Make adjustments to prevent back injuries in housekeepers management can help their housekeeping staffers avoid spinal injuries by making some simple adjustments. The Lab cautioned hotels to make modifications to help prevent expensive spinal injuries down the road.

They suggested that hotels give people more room. If you are designing or renovating rooms, consider giving housekeepers (and guests) more space to walk around at the head and foot of the bed. Provide for the placement of nightstands and furniture, and eliminate clutter from rooms. This will allow the housekeepers to make beds and perform other job duties using better postures, which can help eliminate most back injuries.

A good bed is important to your customer base, but the thicker the mattress, the more likely it is to cause back pain for a housekeeping employee. Try and have multiple employees move the mattress. This keeps the employee from over doing the heavy lifting.

Cutback on the number of rooms a housekeeper must clean in a day. Many hotels require the housekeepers to speed clean an excessive quota of rooms, but over time their bodies break down. If it's not possible to increase staff, consider a job rotation to give the backs of housekeepers a break or consider teams to clean a room instead of just one housekeeper doing all duties by themselves.

Cut back on bath amenities. Requiring the carrying and placement of so many items can be taxing for housekeepers. It can also reduce expense and improve rev par.

Cart design is extremely important. If possible, try to find ways to lighten cartloads, such as breaking up tasks so that housekeepers bring different items to the necessary rooms rather than loading everything up on the cart at once. Handle position on the cart, should be at 65 percent of a person's height, or slightly above the waist. To accommodate the different heights of workers, consider making handles vertical rather than horizontal. Or use carts that the height of the handles can be adjusted to the height of the housekeeper. Look at the diameter of the wheels and modify them, if necessary, to make the carts easier to roll over through doorways.

While the most workplace injuries experienced by housekeepers result from awkward, repetitive motions, these are not the only dangers they face. The study also found that 72 percent of housekeepers are also exposed to potent industrial cleaners on a daily basis and chemical-induced, skin rashes and eye irritation are common.

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