Due to the nature of the work, employees in the hospitality industry are particularly vulnerable to assaults and threatening or inappropriate behavior. In part, this is down to the fact that a lot of housekeepers work alone in guest rooms and food preparation areas, making it difficult for both managers and colleagues to always ensure safe working environments.
According to one survey, a shocking 89% of hospitality workers have experienced sexual harassment, while another 86% had felt unsafe or at risk while at work. What’s more, thanks to the physical demands of many of these roles, hotel employees are more likely to get injured on the job. A survey of more than 600 US and Canadian housekeepers found hotel workers have a 40% higher injury rate than all service sector workers, with 91% suffering work-related pain.
These statistics show just how important it is for hotels, resorts, and bed and breakfast establishments to implement policies that keep their workers safe. In fact, it’s among the reasons that many industry players are calling for increased safety measures across the board; from more comprehensive hygiene practices to combat Covid-19 to wearable panic buttons for hotel workers.
This means the introduction of a number of city and state laws aiming to improve safety within the industry. Many of these include a requirement to introduce panic buttons, particularly for those working alone and in isolated areas. However, there are also other measures being introduced, or that are already part of the health & safety measures hospitality businesses must follow. Here, we explore the kinds of safety regulations already in existence and what your business needs to prepare for.
What Safety Regulations Must Hotels Follow and Why?
Hotels, motels, casinos, ski lodges, resorts, and other public accommodations fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations for General Industry. These cover areas like fire extinguishers, materials handling, accident prevention, and storage of potentially harmful substances.
While a lot of hospitality law relates to general health and safety as well as the treatment of guests and their valuables, there are an increasing number of ordinances that are aimed specifically at keeping hotel workers safe.
Although not all of these measures have been made into state or federal law, many are outlined in the AHLA’s 5-Star Promise. These include providing hotel employees with panic buttons, enhanced training, and specialist resources.
What are the Most Common Safety Violations Within the Hospitality Industry?
According to a UK survey published in 2018, a shocking 9 out of 10 hospitality workers have been subjected to one or more incidents of sexual harassment. While a 2016 report compiled by the Chicago chapter of Unite Here found that:
- 45% of workers have had hotel guests answer the door naked
- 15% have been cornered by a guest
- 10% have been touched
- 15% to 25% have felt pressured for dates or sexual favors or received unwanted sexual attention while at work
What are the Safety Challenges Within the Hospitality Industry?
The hospitality industry faces a number of ongoing public health challenges. Overcoming these challenges will help accommodation providers to protect their employees and keep their guests safe and secure.
Some of the most universal challenges are:
- Housekeepers working alone
- Transient guests
- Large premises that can be difficult to monitor
- High staff turnover
How Can Hotels Improve Safety?
Some of the easiest and most immediate ways for hotels to improve safety are:
- Equip all employees with panic buttons
- Introduce regular training on the use of panic buttons
- Notify guests that panic buttons are in use
- Comply with state laws and Department of Health guidelines relating to the industry
- Regular health and safety training
- Create clear channels for reporting abuse and inappropriate behavior
- Act quickly when inappropriate or dangerous behavior is reported
Hotel Panic Button Legislations and Ordinances
A number of states and cities have already passed laws that require hotels and motels to equip their staff with panic buttons or safety devices. According to many of these new laws, employee safety devices are required to be portable or wearable. Interestingly, many also stipulate that location-based panic buttons must be used in place of noisemaker or screamer variants.
This distinction between high-tech and low-tech panic buttons has been well received, with screamer panic buttons having several drawbacks compared to geo-location buttons, especially in large hotel complexes or in places where sound doesn’t travel easily.
Having said this, each area currently operates its own laws and regulations, and here, we look a little deeper into individual state laws around the country to help you identify what safety regulations you must follow in your location.
Washington State Panic Button Law
In Washington State, all hotels and motels must provide panic buttons for their employees. The date of compliance depended on their occupancy. Those with 60 or more rooms had to be compliant by January 1st, 2020, while those with fewer rooms had until 1st January 2021.
Seattle, Washington Panic Button Law
The city of Seattle introduced a panic button law of its own in November 2016. This law focused on protecting employees working alone. It required hotels with 60 or more guest rooms to provide each employee that was assigned to work alone with a panic button.
Illinois Panic Button Law
Laws regarding panic buttons in Illinois also focus on protecting lone employees. The regulations state that hotels and casinos are responsible for equipping these employees with a safety or notification device.
Hotels in the state were originally required to be compliant with these rules by the 1st of July 2020. However, this was later extended to 1st March 2021.
Massachusetts Panic Button Law
Though the state of Massachusetts has outlined its panic button law, the ordinance is still pending. Hotels will have one year after the passage of the ordinance to become compliant.
According to the legislation, hotels with 25 rooms or more will be required to provide panic buttons to employees that are expected to work in guestrooms or any other enclosed areas.
Long Beach, CA Panic Button Law
The panic button law in Long Beach, CA, requires hotels with 50 or more guestrooms to provide panic buttons for workers. It also requires these hotels to place notices regarding the use of panic buttons in guest rooms.
The date of compliance for this law was the 13th of November 2018. Hotels with fewer than 50 rooms had to become compliant by 13th November 2019.
Sacramento, CA Panic Button Law
As of 29th March 2018, hotels and motels with 25 or more rooms in the unincorporated area of Sacramento County were required to provide employees with a panic button or safety device.
Santa Monica, CA Panic Button Law
Santa Monica, CA requires hotels to provide employees with panic buttons when they’re assigned to work in guestrooms or restrooms. The ordinance, which came into effect on 1st January 2020, also requires hotels to provide regular training for employees.
Oakland, CA Panic Button Law
As of 1st July 2020, Oakland hotels with 50 or more guestrooms must provide panic buttons to all employees assigned to work in a guestroom or bathroom without other employees present.
Los Angeles, CA Panic Button Law
The newest legislation to pass on July 7, 2022, it requires LA hotels with 60 or more guestrooms to provide panic buttons. Hotels must also post notices on the back of guestroom doors advising the law, and training must be conducted within 30 days of its enactment. Keep reading here for additional details.
Glendale, CA Panic Button Law
As of 28th of July, hotel employers are required to protect workers from violent or threatening behavior by providing employees with personal security devices, or panic buttons, at no cost to the employee.
Laguna Beach, CA Panic Button Law
On the 8th of November 2022, voters will decide on "Measure S" which includes a panic button requirement to protect hotel workers from violent or threatening conduct. Hotel employers shall provide a personal security device to each hotel worker assigned to a guest room or restroom facility where other hotel workers are not present.
Irvine, CA Panic Button Law
The city of Irvine, the first in Orange County, has officially approved panic buttons for hotels with 44 or more rooms. The ordinance which came into effect on the 25th of October 2022 also includes mandated training and guidelines for using and responding to the panic buttons.
Miami Beach, Florida Panic Button Law
As well as providing all employees with panic buttons or notification devices, hotels in Miami Beach are required to post signs in rooms notifying guests that panic buttons are in use. The deadline for compliance with this law was 1st August 2019.
New York City Panic Button Law
Hotels in New York have had to provide emergency devices for unionized hospitality workers since 2013. However, the introduction of wearable panic buttons with geo-location capabilities was recommended for all hotel staff by 2020.
Las Vegas, Nevada Panic Button Law
While there currently isn’t a panic button law in Las Vegas, two of the city’s largest casino companies, MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corporation, began providing panic buttons in 2018. By 2019, virtually all housekeepers in Las Vegas were equipped with personal safety devices.
Find out how panic buttons are already protecting thousands of hospitality workers across the country and learn more about our panic buttons systems by getting in touch today.