Any job that involves cleaning for hours on end can be back-breaking work. Those who work as housekeepers in the hospitality industry can suffer a multitude of injuries and medical conditions. According to the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), those who do this work have a 40 percent higher risk of injury than employees in any other service profession.
Whether you are a full-time housekeeper or your teen is working at a local hotel during the summer or after school, it’s crucial to know what the employer’s obligations are to help protect workers’ safety. It’s also important to know the most common causes of injuries and illness so that you can better advocate for and protect yourself.
These encompass injuries to the muscles, tendons, bones, joints, ligaments and nerves. Whether you’re working in a five-star resort or a small motel off the freeway, every time you clean a room, your body goes through a multitude of motions and positions – including bending, lifting, reaching, squatting and kneeling – that can cause these injuries. In smaller rooms, you may find yourself squeezing into tight spaces to clean, which can cause musculoskeletal injuries as well.
Acute and cumulative trauma
Slipping on a wet floor or tripping over a guest’s suitcase and falling can also cause musculoskeletal injuries. This is also considered an acute trauma. Cumulative trauma, on the other hand, is caused by repeated movements like those involved in vacuuming, mopping and other things you do over and over all day, every day.
Toxic and other dangerous items
Industrial strength cleaning products can cause serious respiratory and skin conditions if the people using them don’t have the appropriate protection like gloves and masks. The strength of these products combined with the lack of ventilation – particularly in bathrooms – can be dangerous when you’re exposed to them for hours.
Hotel housekeepers too often find themselves injured by broken glass, razor blades and even used needles in the trash or elsewhere in the room. Even exposure to some drugs can cause a dangerous reaction.
It’s important to understand your right to workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer a work-related injury or condition. California requires all employers to carry workers’ comp insurance for their employees, whether they work part-time or full-time. If you’re having difficulty getting the workers’ comp to which you’re entitled, having legal guidance can help.