When the average person hears of a higher rate of injuries on the job, one would likely think of injuries at warehouses, loading docks and even to drivers. Yet in Nevada, home of some of the largest hotels in the world, the second leading cause of professional injuries are suffered by those who clean the rooms at these megaresorts.
Government Surveys Indicate Higher Risk
According to a 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistical survey, travel accommodation ranks second–only after nursing jobs–in the service sector, for work related injuries. This is considering both time lost due to work injuries and the number of claims of work-related injuries.
Hotel workers are at risk daily due to the physical nature of their job duties. In a presentation to the California/OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) advisory meeting, Dr. Niklas Krause, M.D., PhD., M.P.H., posed 4 relevant questions as it relates to the epidemic, as he sees it, of hotel worker injury cases:
1. Are housekeepers at increased risk for work related injury?
2. Are housekeepers exposed to known occupational risk factors for injury?
3. Is there an association between risk factors and the rate of injuries of housekeepers?
4. Can injuries be prevented?
In his presentation, the following facts were brought to light, as they were found in numerous governmental studies into these issues. Out of 400,000 maids and housekeepers employed in the US in 2010, over 14% have suffered from work injuries that have caused missed time and doctor’s visits. This rate is twice as high in Las Vegas as the national average for service-related jobs. The injuries rank from sprains and strains to the muscles and ligaments of the neck and back, contusions, cuts, chemical exposures and other maladies.
Survey Shows Dramatic Underreporting of Work-Related Injuries
In addition to the reported incidents that the governmental report cited above gives reference to, the more telling story is what is not found in these reports. Based on the recent job climate in the US, the recession made it not only difficult to find a job, but much more imposing to make a report of injury on the job due to the sheer number of workers willing to take your place if you are unable to perform.
Of course, Workers Compensation laws protect workers in such cases, however, many of these workers do not trust the system and might feel pressure to work through an injury. To show this, Dr. Krause presented the results of an anonymous survey of hotel workers. These results showed that nearly 84% of housekeepers take pain medication at least once a month for injuries sustained on the job. Approximately 78% of workers had conditions that were made worse by the work they were doing on the job. It was also reported by nearly half of those polled that they have suffered from “severe” or “very severe” bodily pain in the last month.
Less than 1/3 of work related injuries sustained by housekeepers was reported to their supervisors. Of those who reported to their supervisors only 2 of 3 led to a workers compensation claim filing. With less than half of those claims that were filed being accepted by the insurer, it is evident that it is a road of last resort for these workers. They continue to work through, and in some cases exacerbate, their injuries.
Can Hotel Worker Injuries Be Prevented?
The job description of a housekeeper, for example, requires the employee to perform multiple types of lifting, awkward postures to make beds and clean washrooms, and various amounts of lifting and bending. Exposure to chemicals and other working conditions that are less than optimum, also exist. Complaints by workers injured on these jobs include: irritation from cleaning supplies, linen carts overloaded and too heavy to move on carpeted surfaces, malfunctioning vacuum cleaners or vacuums that were too heavy, and the weight of the thick comforters hotels in Las Vegas replete with.
Workers also have reported not taking any breaks, and skipping lunch and other accommodations in order to complete their assigned rooms. It was found that the number of rooms they are required to clean on a shift has increased as well.
It has been suggested that in response to these findings that workers be trained more extensively in ergonomic body movements, lifting with legs instead of the back, and, most importantly, changes in the amount of work and the time required to complete each room.
The hotel industry is competitive. There are many choices for consumers, especially in Las Vegas. Making a few changes in the culture and method of how these workers are treated could be key in reducing the number of workers injured, and even more importantly, decrease the number who feel required to work through the pain. Making the work environment better could improve the experience of a hotel’s guests.
Hotels can hire more workers to do the number of rooms that fewer workers are asked to do now. These additional workers might be economically more profitable when less are injured on these jobs with less stress to rush through a room because more are doing the same number of rooms.
What Can I do If I am Hurt on the Job?
It is important to know that you have certain rights in Nevada when injured on the job. You are required to report your injuries to you supervisor and explain exactly what happened when you were injured. You must be given forms to complete to make a claim for workers’ compensation of the employer’s insurance carrier and you must be offered medical care. It is important to know what your rights are. It is recommended that you seek the counsel of a Nevada personal injury attorney to discuss the incident and what your rights are. Your attorney is also experienced in medical documentation and can assist in referrals to the appropriate medical practitioner for you.