Health and Safety in the Hotel Industry (Part 8)
Hotels see a vast throughput of people and employ thousands of staff – all of whom are exposed to safety risks on a daily basis. Do you know what those risks are, and are you aware of how to safeguard your customers and staff? Find out in our series of articles.
A recent spate of cases involving health and safety at hotels has focused attention on the procedures that need to be followed in order to ensure that guests and members of staff are kept safe whilst on the premises. Failure to do so can mean prosecution, fines, imprisonment, injury and in some cases, death. Even if the injuries sustained are minor, the damage to the reputation of a hotel whose very livelihood depends on both repeat and new business from the general public can be catastrophic.
Putting control measures into place and checking them to ensure that they continue to be effective is essential to comply with health and safety legislation. Such measures also make sure that guests and staff have a safe environment in which to work and move around.
Specific hazards and environments
Let’s take a look at some of the problems that are specific to the hotel and hospitality industry and what steps can be taken to make them safer.
Receptionists or other administrative staff who spend a lot of time working with monitors will need to have their workstations assessed to ensure that they are comfortable and conform to the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992. These regulations are designed to minimise upper limb and eye strain.
There are several things to consider regarding window safety.
The hotel’s arrangements for cleaning them should be reviewed for safety purposes. If the hotel staff are cleaning the windows themselves, then their precautions for working at height should be checked to ensure that they comply with the Work at Height Regulations 2005. This includes safe working practices, the correct use of ladders, safety equipment and checking to see if the work can be done from the ground, which may be practicable, depending on the height of the building.
For larger buildings, the hotel management may engage the services of professional cleaning contractors. As with all contractors, the hotel should ask to see evidence of competence and a copy of the contractors’ safety method statement.
Where the windows form part of a door, checks should be made to confirm that they are made of suitable safety glass.
We have already touched upon the risk of windows being opened too far and falls resulting. A restraining device should be used to prevent this happening.
The distance between the bottom edge of a window and the floor should be at least 800mm, unless a barrier is being used to prevent falls. Even if such precautions are put into place, it should be borne in mind that children are extremely resourceful and they may use beds or other furniture to gain access to a window that adults might have thought was beyond their reach.
Violence at Work
Hotel staff deal with the public on a daily basis and as many hotels serve alcohol on the premises, the potential for trouble can be imagined. Staff may have to deal with frustrated, tired or angry people and run the risk of becoming the victims of violent or aggressive behaviour. At certain times of the day, there may be only one person at a reception desk and that may place them in a particularly vulnerable situation should trouble arise.
The HSE’s definition of work-related violence is:
‘any incident, in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’.
All violence at work, whether staff on staff, customer on staff or customer on customer is unacceptable and the hotel should ensure that it has risk-assessed all working arrangements, identified the possibility of violent behaviour and put safeguards into place to eliminate, or minimise the risk to staff and customers.
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