For years, the safety of hotel employees has been overlooked in favor of providing exceptional guest experiences. However, the number of incidents of harassment, abuse, and emergencies suffered by hospitality staff has been on the rise. It’s clear that hotels have a significant problem on their hands, one they can only solve through industry-wide action.
In response to recent legislative measures, hotels have been quick to reform their safety protocols and invest in staff safety technology, such as Emergency Safety Devices (ESDs). Employers have a legal and moral obligation to prioritize the safety of their staff, and now the resources and tools necessary to make positive changes are readily available and, in many cases, mandated.
To create and maintain a safe and secure workplace for staff, hotels must incorporate staff safety into their operations strategy. Regular assessments should be conducted using the steps outlined below, not as a one-time occurrence, but as a semi-annual exercise.
How can hotels identify and mitigate risks to ensure the safety of their employees?
Hotel employees are susceptible to various on-site incidents due to the remote nature of their work, making them especially vulnerable. Lone workers, such as cleaning and maintenance staff, are frequently assigned to rooms without the company of another staff member or supervisor, placing them in potentially high-risk environments with guests behind closed doors.
These risks can include physical labor leading to accidental injury, medical emergencies, and threatening behavior from hotel guests, including physical attacks and unsolicited sexual harassment. In fact, according to an online survey by Unite the Union, 89% of hospitality industry workers reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual harassment at work. Moreover, as much as 90% of women and 70% of men in service jobs report experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, higher than in any other industry.
Ignoring staff safety concerns in hotels can also have a significant impact on the employer. The hospitality industry has notoriously high staff turnover rates, which represent a substantial cost to hoteliers, with an annualized employee turnover rate of 73.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Incidents that cause employees to abandon their jobs can result in staff compensation, legal fees and damages, increased insurance premiums, fines, and a negative impact on employee morale.
To proactively address and prioritize hotel staff safety, hotels must identify and mitigate risks. Hoteliers should establish a safety committee responsible for identifying potential hazards and risks, developing and implementing safety policies and procedures, and ensuring all staff members are trained on the policies and procedures. Hotels should also invest in staff safety technology, such as Emergency Safety Devices (ESDs), panic buttons, and GPS tracking devices. Background checks on potential employees and providing resources to report incidents of harassment or abuse are also crucial steps.
How can hotels assess existing measures to ensure the safety of their employees?
To ensure long-term success in improving hotel staff safety, hotels need to assess their current practices and environments to audit what they are currently doing to lower risks and improve safety. It’s also essential to have a conversation with staff, understand their experiences, and make them a part of the process as new, preventative processes are implemented.
When surveying staff, hoteliers should ask questions such as how frequently incidents have occurred in the past, the likelihood of an incident occurring based on geographic location, and how staff members feel about their safety at work. Additionally, hotels should establish a safe space and process for employees to report safety breaches and incidents without fear of dismissal or professional consequences.
Furthermore, hotels should audit their current processes and environments to identify hazards on their property. This includes ensuring each staff member has an easy way to get help when needed, having location tracking information for each staff member in case of an emergency, providing staff with resources, training, and information related to their safety, and establishing a set of best practices in the event of a staff emergency. Hotels should also review any legislative guidelines that impact their property and ensure that buildings are connected to secured buildings, empty rooms are locked, stairwell and supply room doors automatically lock behind staff, and guests cannot easily access employee-only areas.
Additional considerations include ensuring staff washrooms are not used by the public, guests cannot easily gain access to employee-only areas, staff can see if someone is in the elevator before entering, cash is counted at the end of each shift, and security codes and passwords are changed when employees are no longer with the property.
By assessing existing measures and identifying potential hazards, hotels can take proactive steps to mitigate risks and create a safe and secure workplace for their employees.
What are some solutions hotels can take to invest in staff safety?
To invest in staff safety, hotels can take several proactive steps, including updating resources, training, and information available to staff that helps enforce their safety. Hotels should also establish a set of best practices in the case of a staff emergency or injury and ensure all employees are informed and ready to comply with these practices. A designated person or team should oversee and enforce the safety of hotel staff, including training, technology implementation, and reporting.
Hotels should install security cameras, signage, and motion detectors to deter potential incidents, and post signs that indicate onsite security measures to inform guests of the hotel’s efforts to maintain a safe environment. The use of coded ID cards or keys can control access to the building or certain areas within the building, and ensuring adequate lighting can also improve staff safety. Additionally, hotels should remove anything that may be used as a weapon, such as heavy and sharp objects.
Finally, hotels should consider implementing advanced employee safety devices (ESDs), also known as panic buttons, which can be easily carried by staff and utilized in the event of an emergency. These devices can provide an additional layer of protection for staff and enable them to quickly summon help in case of an incident.
By investing in staff safety through these solutions, hotels can create a safe and secure workplace for their employees, improve staff morale, and reduce the risks and costs associated with incidents and high staff turnover rates.
What are some questions to ask when selecting a panic button platform to ensure the safety of hotel staff?
When selecting a panic button platform, hotels should consider several factors to ensure the safety of their staff. Hotels should ask if the platform leverages Beacon and Bluetooth technology to ensure location accuracy, even off the property and within multi-story buildings. It’s also essential to consider if the platform is easy to use and implement, small and discreet, and works with and without a mobile device.
Other considerations include whether the platform is cloud-based and easily integrated with existing hotel systems, how long the installation process will take, whether the platform offers management controls and enhanced reporting, and whether there are various options that can be customized to the property and budget. Additionally, hotels should consider whether the vendor has an established portfolio of hotel properties, along with positive testimonials, and if the vendor will continue to work with the property to provide support, maintenance, and training where necessary. Finally, hotels should ask whether the vendor welcomes user feedback to continuously improve the platform.
By asking these questions and selecting a panic button platform that meets their needs, hotels can take a critical step toward protecting their brand, business, and people. Staff safety is an ongoing effort that requires continued care and effort from hoteliers, paired with the support provided by staff safety technology vendors.
Vendor Spotlight: RelayPro Hotel panic buttons are a new requirement for hotels, but they don’t have to be a new expense. RelayPro was recently approved by Marriott, IHG and Choice hotels and has been installed in nearly 2,000 properties. RelayPro is BOTH a 4G/Wi-Fi walkie talkie and a cutting-edge panic button with VOICE communication.