Thursday, April 15, 2010

Summit Brings Attention to Workplace Safety

In February, the American Journal of Industrial Medicine published a study with the title, "Occupational Injury Disparities in the U.S. hotel industry. A total of 2,865 injuries at 50 unionized hotels over a three-year span were analyzed. The injury rate was higher for female hotel employees because they work disproportionately as housekeepers, which is the most injury-prone hotel job. According to the study, housekeepers have a 7.9 percent injury rate each year, 50 percent higher than for all hotel workers. The study also found that Hispanic women are more likely to get injured than their white counterparts.

This week, according to a press release issued by UNITE HERE, the union organization that represents hospitality workers, nearly 50 housekeepers traveled to Houston to participate in OSHA's National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety. The conference is sponsored by OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The housekeepers are participating in the Summit to bring attention to the high rates of injury for hotel housekeepers--in particular Latino housekeepers.

Just prior to the start of the OSHA Summit, housekeepers revealed their Hope Quilt, a 150-foot quilt made by housekeepers from across North America. Each patch on the quilt represents a story of pain or injury caused by working in hotels.

The housekeepers certainly have a right to be concerned. According to John Wilhelm, the president of UNITE HERE, "Hotels are the only place we know that Latina workers face higher injury rates...."

As mentioned in one of my previous columns, it is imperative that those who employ housekeepers do what is necessary to provide the proper training, tools and cleaning products to ensure an ergonomically and chemically safe working environment. There is no excuse for workplace injuries--ever.

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