NIOSH Fact Sheet Highlights Safety, Health Concerns Among Hotel Cleaners

Nearly 1.8 million people worked in the traveler/accommodations industry in 2008, including more than 400,000 hotel room cleaners.

NIOSH and the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) recently released a fact sheet detailing safety and health issues that affect hotel cleaners.

Who works in hotel cleaning?

Nearly 1.8 million people worked in the traveler/accommodations industry in 2008, including more than 400,000 hotel room cleaners. Tasks performed by hotel room cleaners include dust¬ing, vacuuming, changing linens, making beds, scrubbing bathrooms, cleaning mirrors, and disposing of trash. Most cleaners are women, and many are immigrants and minorities. According to a recent academic study, housekeepers had the highest rates of injury of all jobs studied in sam¬pled hotels. Furthermore, among housekeepers, Hispanic females had the highest rate of injury.

What are the important safety and health issues in the Accommodations Subsector?

Hotel cleaners face hazards such as the following:

  • ergonomic hazards that include bending, pushing carts, and making beds;
  • trauma hazards that include slips, trips, and falls;
  • respiratory, dermal, and possibly carcinogenic hazards from chemicals in cleaning products;
  • mold and microbial contaminants;
  • infectious agents; and
  • occupational stress due to heavy workloads, lack of adequate supplies, job insecurity, low pay, and discrimination.

How can safety and heath be improved among hotel cleaners?

Organizations and individuals can help improve the safety and health of hotel cleaners in the United States:

  • Identify and evaluate hazards and adopt inter¬ventions to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the hotel environment.
  • Evaluate the quality and ensure maintenance of equipment used in hotel cleaning operations.
  • Encourage the use of ergonomic carts and vacuum cleaners, and long-handled tools like mops and scrub brushes; and inform suppliers about the best equipment for cleaners.
  • Conduct research on guest practices that would improve the work environment for room cleaners.
  • Partner with OSHA, NIOSH, labor, and oth¬ers to study why disparities exist in injury rates among room cleaners and what remedies are effective, and to quickly implement available remedies.
  • Lead a work group to address priority issues related to a strategic goal to help inform em¬ployers and policy makers about hazards and interventions.
  • Assist in the design of an effective system to track occupational injuries and illnesses in the hotel/motel industry.
  • Represent a partner organization to work on a goal implementation plan.

What are the Sector Goals for Accommodations?

The NORA Services Sector Council developed strategic goals for the Accommodations Subsector to address priority workplace safety and health issues. The Council will ensure progress and track accomplishments through 2016. Partnerships are needed to achieve these goals to reduce work-related injury, illness, and death among hotel cleaners:

  • Reduce the incidence and severity of occu¬pational injuries by 20 percent as measured in lost work days among hotel and motel workers.
  • Reduce by 20 percent the incidence and severity of occupational illness and morbidity that result in lost work days among hotel and motel workers.
  • Eliminate health disparities for priority popu¬lation workers in the hotel and motel industry.

To view the entire fact sheet, go to http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-194/pdfs/2011-194.pdf.

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