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Health and Safety in the Hotel Industry – An Essential Guide

Donnchadh Tiernan

9 Dec, 2022

Did you know that the total costs of accidents in the workplace are close to 4% of the Global Domestic Product (GDP)? Because of ineffective Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) protocols, the global economy spends more than $3 trillion to cover workplace hazards injuries. The hospitality industry has a potential for multiple hazards, and hoteliers are constantly looking for ways to mitigate risks from various sources. Hoteliers are ethically and legally obliged to protect the health and safety of their guests and staff by creating effective protocols to protect their welfare.

Your hotel’s success is closely interlinked with the safety and health protocols you have put in place to protect your staff and guests. A reputation of recurring multiple accidents can affect your employees’ turnover and reduce your guests’ bookings.

As a hotelier, coming up with sustainable health and safety protocols to mitigate health and safety risks can mitigate your losses and protect people in the event of an accident.

Health and safety protocols are actionable steps hoteliers can use to protect staff and guests in the hotel. Health and safety protocols involve:

  • Documenting hazards in the hotel environment.
  • Communicating the potential hazards to all stakeholders.
  • Implementing training procedures to mitigate the risks.
  • Adapting an actionable plan for emergencies.

What are the common health and safety hazards in the hospitality industry?

While the hospitality industry is a highly lucrative enterprise for hoteliers, it comes with a myriad of challenges in terms of protecting the health and safety of guests and staff. Standard health and safety hazards in the hospitality industry include:

  • Fire and electrical shock hazards
  • Slip Slips and falls
  • Food safety

Why is health and safety important in hotels?

1) It helps to reduce staff turnover

The hospitality industry has a high turnover rate mainly because jobs are seasonal and attract a younger demographic that later moves on to other industries as they gain experience. Another reason for the high turnover may be the daily health and safety hazards employees are exposed to. As a hotelier, you can reduce the high turnover rate by minimising job risks by conducting regular safety training.

2) Develop a reputation for quality customer service

If your hotel develops a reputation for providing quality customer service, safety, and sanitation, you can easily attract new customers while maintaining the existing ones. Hotels are operating in a digital era where a bad review on your company site or social media about your food, bad sanitation, or inadequate safety measures for the guests can significantly reduce your hotel’s bookings.

3) Increase profits

Incorporating effective health and safety protocols can help attract new customers, which increases your revenues.

4) Minimise loss

Health and safety protocols can help your hotel minimise risky events that may result in lawsuits. Hazards such as fire, slips, falls, and exposure to excessive heat or cold can cause loss of valuable property, mental and physical trauma, and death of your staff and guests. Incorporating safety protocols such as fire drills and first aid as part of your operations can significantly reduce the impact of risky events.

How are the hotels providing safety to their guests?

Train your staff in all your health and safety protocols

With proper planning, you can provide adequate safety measures for guests to experience a frictionless time while in your hotel. As a hotelier, you can provide adequate safety measures by educating your staff. To prevent injuries caused by spillages, fire, food contamination, chemicals, and unattended objects, you can conduct departmental training to address various hazards in each hotel area.

Communicate with your guests regarding emergency planning and potential hazards

Have a medium to constantly update your guests about potential hazards, operations changes, and emergency plans updates.

Create a guest occupational safety committee

You can create a safety committee that regularly addresses deficiencies in the hotel’s safety protocols.

Who has responsibilities for health and safety in the hotel?

Every stakeholder in the hotel industry has a role to play in protecting the health and safety of staff and guests at the hotel. Key stakeholders may include:

1) Hotel managers

As a hotel manager, you can protect the welfare of your staff and employees by:

  • Conduct regular employee training focussing on hazards in the hotel environment.
  • You can communicate to your guests and staff about the potential hazards in the hotel. You can put hazard posters, signs, or labels to warn people about potential risks they may be exposed to in different areas of the hotel.
  • Regulation and insurance compliance. Ensure that your hotel meets your country’s food, sanitation, and safety standards to minimise accidents.
  • Hire qualified personnel. Working with a trained staff significantly reduces human errors, which reduces accidents.

2) Employees

Hire employees that can cooperate with you to maintain health and safety protocols in the hotel. As a hotelier, communicate to your employees about their safety responsibilities, which may include:

  • Reporting hazards to management
  • Protecting the health and safety of guests and co-workers.
  • Ensuring they maintain good personal hygiene.

3) Guests

Hotel guests are responsible for following health and safety instructions, using equipment responsibly, and reporting any hazards to the staff.

The hospitality industry, while lucrative, has the potential for many health and safety hazards that can affect a hotel’s performance by increasing employee turnover, reducing bookings, and resulting in costly litigations. One way to get it all under control is to use a PMS that will allow you to manage all daily operations in one place, and by adopting proper risk management protocols, hotel managers can protect the welfare of their guests and employees by reducing their exposure to potential hazards.

What are the most important safety procedures in a hotel?

This being such a broad question and heavily dependant on the individual environment I’ll try my best to answer it in a broad manner. Here are the three most important procedures that could readily apply to any establishment under the sun if the goal is to reduce risks of the most common type.

1. Regular fire drills and staff safety training.

In the event of a fire do you want your staff struggling to remember the motions they’d gone through before Christmas two years ago? You do not. In your role as a hotel manager it is important to regularly take your staff through the motions of what to do in the event of a fire or another such risk.

Why regularly, you might ask, or indeed how regularly? To the latter I’d say five to six times a year across departments and to the former I’d remind you of the concept of muscle memory.

In much the same way you might have heard of the deathly calm with which pilots operate in times of duress you want your staff practically bored of the quickest and most efficient manner to empty your premises of all souls. Bored and reassuring and – consequently – safe.

It’s not only the floor plans and evacuation actions you wish to make mundane for them. Regular staff training should include things like communication, correct lifting techniques when it comes to heavy loads and anything else you can think of that you’d like to be shorthand for your staff.

2. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

What worked for Rudy Giuliani in New York can work for you in your premises. It should not be news to you that much of the dangers posed to a premises can happen at the hand of ones guests and there are a few reasonable steps one can take to make one’s property the kind of place that discourages bad and dangerous behaviour.

As suggested by research, an alley covered in graffiti is about twice as likely to be the location of a crime than a clean one. So too with hotels. Good housekeeping and good lighting are two very basic steps one can take to encourage good behaviour in one’s guests and employees.

The mere presence of a security guard at night is amongst the simplest ways make a potential miscreant think twice. Similarly, keeping the exterior of one’s property well maintained is a statement all of it’s own. It might seem rash to be outlining the danger of working with the public but the fact is the public untethered is as unpredictable as a wild animals.

Designing your environment in such a way as to discourage bad and consequently dangerous behaviour can be as effective in preventing serious harm as the placing of a sign with a common hazard symbol in front of a wet floor.

3. Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)

This final one is only technically applicable – and probably well known already – to properties that serve food to their guests. It is an internationally recognised set of protocols to make sure that not only any danger resulting from the consumption of food can be actively prevented but that in the unfortunate event that something does occur that the danger may be traced and eliminated.

I say this is only technically applicable to food serving premises because the principles are quite technical. A hotel that only offers coffee in the morning has no need to worry about the five types of chopping boards that ought to be stored and washed separately, for example. That said the idea of operating on a list of principles that allow one to track and eliminate risks are adaptable to fire plans – fire doors, for example – and a whole host of other potential hazards and are thus well worth reading up on.

What are the 5 most common health and safety risks in hospitality?

A truck crashing into your lobby area is unfortunate, sure, but is there any need to prepare for such a scenario. No, realistically, but I can think of at least five that are worth keeping an eye on for the sake of guests and staff alike.

1. Slips, trips and falls

If the above bit of alliteration is alien to you then congratulations – you’ve made it x amount of years in the hospitality business without encountering the mother of all injury causes. Good housekeeping is a good preventative measure, as well as making it obligatory for staff to wear appropriate footwear and not to rush. Accidents of this nature simply will happen – it’s up to you to negatively affect the frequency.

2. Injury due to poor manual handling

As I’m sure is detailed in any number of safety at work acts internationally it is a legal obligation to provide a manual handling course for workers who will need to lift objects from the ground regularly at work. Even if your establishment isn’t obliged by a safety law or legislation it’s a great way to be proactive about your staff’s health, never mind prevent musculoskeletal injuries.

3. Hazardous Chemicals

Even those of you who do not operate a commercial kitchen on the premise are surely aware of a room in your hotel where it seems appropriate to cover one’s mouth before entering for fear of intoxication by fumes. I am of course referring to one’s cleaning store. If you do serve food you’ll surely be aware of the ill effects on one’s health prolonged exposure to a gas stove in a poorly ventilated area can have, given the large amounts of carbon dioxide gases that are given off by a typical stove. The chemicals you work with can take their toll on staff and guests alike if not handled and used with care and respect.

4. Fire

For reasons that I hope don’t need explaining fire prevention is key but just like with slips, trips and falls fires do happen and it’s up to you to train your staff to know how to deal with them in the moment.

5. Mental ill-health

This one gets past far too many people but the fact is the high-pressure environment of a busy hotel can take a toll on one not well equipped to take care of themselves between the ears. Keep an open door in HR and if HR is you make sure everyone knows there are ears available if anyone needs to talk.

Biggest occupational hazard in the hotel industry?

This varies across departments – you’re more likely to be exposed to chemicals in housekeeping and knives in the kitchen, for instance – but the common denominator wherever you are seems to be slips, trips and falls.

They happen anywhere and everywhere and are only exacerbated by surfaces that are routinely cleaned that people are prone to rush over thoughtlessly if the appropriate signage is not in place.

What are the health and safety protocols to observe on a restaurant floor?

Slips, trips and falls are as common on restaurant floors as anywhere else but there the severity is multiplied given the likelihood that the falling party will be carrying something hot and/or sizzling with a great potential to injure the carrier or a nearby party in ways that go beyond mere trauma.

The safest course of action – beyond sticking with carpets, which are tougher to clean in many scenarios but infinitely safer in every scenario – is to light your restaurant so the floor is always visible and lay the tables out so an orderly evacuation is possible in the event of a fire. This is not simply to facilitate evacuation but to provide sufficient space for your staff to move safely while carrying hot things.

Also, train waiting staff on how to carry safely and discourage anyone from taking on the proverbial ‘lazy man’s load’ – carrying more in order to only have to make one trip – in order to minimise the risk of dangerous spillages.

Health and safety in the kitchen and when cooking

When it comes to health and safety the kitchen is truly it’s own world. As I mentioned earlier, HACCP is a fairly recognisable international standard when it comes to maintaining technical food safety and professional accountability in a food-preparation environment but there are many, many things to consider beyond that.

Rules change depending on the size of the premises and staff but generally speaking each kitchen should have an established work-flow and shorthand which it’s essential to stick by both for the sake of efficiency and safety. For example, some places say ‘behind’, some say ‘watch your back’ and one place I worked said ‘six’, for whatever reason. I’m referring to the warning to someone that there’s somebody coming from behind so be careful. Whatever you would say in you outside-work life in that scenario needs to be left at the door and this applies to as many rules of lingo and protocol as they have.

Nine times out of ten steel-toe boots are a must, sauce-pots are not to be carried by one person regardless of how strong they are and the list goes on and on. Think of it like a military unit – establish the rules, see them obeyed and party when the day is done – done safely, that is!

Health and safety - catering vs hospitality

Not to labour too long on this point – not all hotel’s have restaurants to worry about but if you have a staff member coming from the catering world be sure to school them in your rulebook more than anyone. They might talented as anything but they’ll also be used to abiding by their own rules and speaking by their own language.

The reason I would lean into this point is it illustrates that such shorthands are not first and foremost about efficiency but safety. It matters that everyone is on the same page absolutely so that if something occurs as it always does everybody present knows exactly what they should be doing.

The staff member coming from the catering world needs to understand that their actions no longer represent themselves but and entire team and organisation, both in terms of reputation and welfare.

How to approach hotel health and safety practically

If you take nothing else away from this article you should know it’s important – nay, imperative – that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. Even if there are some bum-notes – you can iron these out over time – if one person is doing their own thing it adds that little bit of chaos to the mix that is quite simply the key ingredient in a health hazard salad. Establish your protocols and see they are followed and you’ll not only minimise risks but you’ll ensure the ones your staff are exposed too are plausibly solvable when they occur.

Control is key, which is why we at Amenitiz make the effort to put you in the driving seat of your business where competing softwares and OTAs would see you steered by the interests of others. Book a free demo with us today to see what you’re missing out on in terms of the final call on your website, your pricing strategy and how and when you take payments. Our team of experts are waiting for you.

Donnchadh Tiernan

9 Dec, 2022