With International Housekeepers Appreciation Week coming up Sept 8-14, 2019, it’s the perfect time to think about how you can recognize and reward some of the most crucial members of your team. Housekeepers truly are heroes behind the scenes, working hard to ensure the cleanliness and hygiene of the hotel as well as guest comfort and satisfaction.
The hard work that goes into such an important role can take a toll on housekeepers in the form of injuries. According to Cal/OSHA, ergonomic injuries are a serious problem for hotel employees and leadership. In fact, out of the $500 million the hospitality industry pays annually for repetitive motion injury claims, $350 million were for housekeeping employees (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Because housekeeping injuries are so common, it’s important to understand the severity of the issue, and put a plan in place to address it.
Housekeeping Injuries by the Numbers
In a 2016 brief published by the Department of Industrial Relations, it was noted that 27.3% of housekeepers are injured within their first year of working.
According to statistics provided by The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF):
- Hotel workers in the U.S. alone have a 40 percent higher chance of becoming injured at work than other service-sector employees in general.
- Hotel workers suffer the highest injury rate of all workers studied.
- Hotel workers suffer the highest rate of musculoskeletal injuries among all other occupations studied.
- Hotel workers ranked the highest acute trauma injury rates as well.
What are the Causes of Injury?
Cleaning hotel rooms requires that housekeepers spend much of their day lifting mattresses, pulling linens, pushing heavy carts, and cleaning bathrooms. Housekeepers also often have to assume awkward postures to complete their work, and repetitive movements are necessary when removing and replacing linens on beds, vacuuming, and wiping down furniture and bathrooms.
In addition, due to the small size of many hotel rooms and bathrooms, hotel housekeepers have to assume various uncomfortable postures, and must make extreme reaches above shoulder height.
These movements are all risk factors for musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) and repetitive motion injuries (RMIs). These kinds of injuries involve muscles, tendons, joints, nerves, and ligaments, and usually require long recovery times which results in high costs to workers, their families, employers, and insurers.
What are the Consequences?
While the negative effect of injuries on the housekeeper may seem obvious, it’s important to mention. When housekeepers get injured on the job, it can take them out of the workforce for weeks or months. The chances of re-injury are also very high when an injured housekeeper comes back on the job. Many housekeepers attempt to work through their pain, which can cause morale issues or result in even worse injuries over time.
Hospitality organizations also experience negative effects such as more employee absences, high employee turnover, increased workers compensation claims, and lawsuits for injuries sustained.
Creating a Plan
While it’s probably clear that on-the-job injuries are truly cause for concern in your housekeeping department, it may be less clear what to do about it.
The state of California has enacted guidelines that hotels must adhere to when creating such a plan, and other states are sure to follow. In light of that, it may make sense to proactively implement a similar injury prevention plan.
This fact sheet outlines in detail how to create injury prevention measures at your organization: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/housekeeping-musculoskeletal-injuries-factsheet.pdf
How Can Chair Massage Help?
Even a perfect plan will not eliminate all injuries, and regardless of how housekeeping tasks are performed they will always be physically demanding.
Chair massage is an excellent way to reduce the pain and soreness these workers experience. In a 2016 study of chair massage in the workplace (you can see the study abstract here), it was found that the group receiving massages had significant reduction in pain and discomfort of the spine and upper limbs.
According to the authors of the study, massage is a preferred method to treat pain and MSIs in the workplace because it’s incredibly cost effective for employers, especially when compared to traditional physical therapy or surgery. On-site chair massage is also easily accessible for employees, helping to relieve pain without having to pay for and travel to a physician's office.
Chair massage is also known to improve morale and is a great way to reward employees. Massage decreases stress and anxiety and increases energy, all of which can lead to higher job satisfaction. Even one session has positive effects!