Musculoskeletal disorders among hotel housekeepers

A new US-study shows increasingly excessive workloads in the rising rates of
musculoskeletal disorders among hotel housekeepers. A new analysis of hotel
employer records of housekeeper injuries, combined with evidence from earlier
surveys, reveal that housekeepers face disproportionate rates of workplace
injury, with strains and sprains as the leading type of injury, accounting for
nearly half of all housekeeper cases.

The contribution of working conditions to these cases is also evident. In our
analysis, overexertion is the second leading cause of housekeeper injuries. In
addition, recent detailed biomechanical evaluations of working conditions, the
first ever reported in the United States, likewise implicate typical
housekeeper tasks ­ especially bedmaking ­ as the leading contributors to the
growth of housekeeper injuries.

Data extracted from OSHA-mandated records of employee injuries maintained by
the five biggest national companies during 1999 ­ 2005 at 87 unionized hotels
in the US totaled 40, 030 employees (as well as employment data from the same
hotels). We identified 4,230 cases of injuries among housekeepers and a total
of 14,719 cases among all employees. Given the 17.8% proportion of housekeepers
among the total employees, these data revealed a 61% higher risk of injury to
housekeepers. This excess risk increased from 47% in the period 1999-2001 to
71% in the period 2002 ­ 2005.

A further analysis of the same kind of injury data at a larger group of hotels
(n=107) during the period 2000 ­ 2004 shows that "Strains/sprains" alone
accounted for 44% of all injuries (n=3,272). While "contact with objects" was
the leading cause, "overexertion" caused 27% of all injuries (n= 1,605). Of
great concern is the fact that the median rate of lost work time among the
disabling cases in this population in 2002-2004 was 14 days away from work,
more than double the rate reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in its
national sample of hotel employer records for workplace injury. In fact, hotels
have one of the highest overall rates of workplace injury among major sectors
within the entire service industry: 5.9% vs. 4.2%.

Among the contributing factors the widening use of new luxury beds and other
amenities, coupled with reduced staffing, by the hotel companies. A new
analysis using the "Lumbar Motion Monitor" demonstrates that the housekeeping
job ­ including the bedmaking task - has a 75% probability of yielding a high
injury rate. This result is worse than that for any of the 20 manufacturing
jobs which were also studied. Likewise, a new analysis of the bedmaking task on
a luxury bed showed that bedmaking alone (apart from other room-cleaning tasks)
exceeded the safe lifting limit recommended by the US National Institute of
Occupational Safety and Health. During the same period (1999 - 2003), hotel
companies have reduced by 45% the number of key employees ("housemen") assigned
to housekeeping tasks.

The study recommends:

Hotel employers must improve the organization of hotel housekeeping work:

  • Humane workloads & reasonable quotas
  • Comprehensive re-design (i.e. beds, carts)
  • Ergonomically designed tools (i.e. long handles)
  • Increased staffing
  • Enforced break time
  • Joint labor/management health & safety training for supervisors and employees

More information

AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work