Worker protection and employee safety are becoming increasingly important topics in the hotel industry. The #MeToo movement, along with a number of high profile cases, highlighted the endemic violence and harassment faced by many in the sector, with some research suggesting up to 9 in 10 hotel workers had experienced sexual harassment at some point in their careers. What’s more, many studies show that the Covid-19 pandemic has made things even worse, with antisocial behavior directly linked to mask wearing and other hygiene issues becoming hot button issues both inside and outside the hospitality industry.
In response, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), asked businesses operating in the industry to sign up to its 5-Star Promise. One of the key commitments of this promise is to equip all hotel staff with employee safety devices with the aim of providing better protection for those employees who are often working alone or that are regularly in contact with members of the public.
As well as the 5-Star Promise, a number of cities and states have passed legislation requiring hotels to provide staff with panic buttons. From Chicago to Miami Beach and New Jersey to Washington, this panic button legislation is helping to protect hotel workers and raise safety standards across the hospitality industry, helping to decrease response times to broad range of incidents while also providing staff with both a deterrent to harassment and antisocial behavior as well as a discreet and “non-triggering” method to call for help.
Here, we take a look at current and upcoming panic button regulation and find out how hotel employers can ensure their businesses are fully compliant.
How and Why Wireless Panic Buttons Are Necessary in Hotels?
The hospitality sector has one of the highest rates of assault of any industry. This is partly because a lot of hotel workers, including housekeepers, are required to work alone in isolated parts of the premises.
Lone workers can find it difficult to call for help if they feel threatened. Even if they do manage to get the attention of hotel security, it’s not always easy to locate lone workers in large hotels with hundreds of rooms and communal areas.
Vetting guests is also virtually impossible in most hotels. This can make employees in the sector exceptionally vulnerable to sexual assault, violence, and intimidation.
Wireless panic buttons allow these lone workers to call for help instantly and discreetly if they feel threatened. These small, lightweight devices can be worn on the body and activated quickly and easily simply by pushing a button. When the device is activated, the user’s real time location is sent straight to a security guard or hotel security center. This ensures help reaches the distressed staff member as quickly as possible.
Hotel panic button systems help to address many of the most serious safety issues faced by hotel workers. This is why they’re a key part of the AHLA 5-Star promise and why hotel employees across the country are pushing for more panic button mandates and increased worker protection.
A number of states and cities have already introduced ordinances designed to protect hotel workers from harassment and sexual assault.
In September 2018, New Jersey introduced a bill aimed at minimizing the risks hotel workers face on a daily basis. The law applies to establishments with 25 or more hotel rooms and requires employers to equip employees who work alone with a dedicated safety device. This must be an electronic device or two-way radio that employees can use to quickly call for help in case of an emergency.
Since June 2019, recognizing that voice communications in these situations serve to escalate tensions, the state has required hotels with more than 100 guest rooms to provide employees with a Bluetooth panic button.
Currently, California doesn’t have any statewide laws that mandate the use of panic buttons in the hotel industry, although bills are being introduced in the state legislature. However, a number of cities and municipalities within the state have introduced their own legislation to protect employees and make the industry safer. Cities with panic buttons laws currently in place include:
- Santa Monica
- Sacramento County
- City of Sacramento
- Long Beach
A number of other cities in the state have passed legislation as recently as August 2022, most notably Los Angeles and Glendale, and more are likely to introduce panic button laws in the coming years.
In January 2020, Washington State introduced a law requiring all hotels and motels with 60 rooms or more to provide hotel employees with a personal safety device. Hotels and motels with fewer than 60 rooms had until January 1, 2021, to provide their staff with a panic button or notification device.
In Seattle, panic buttons must be given to all employees that provide in-room services like cleaning, room service and maintenance. The law applies to hotels with 60 rooms or more.
By July 2020, every hotel in the State of Illinois with over 100 guest rooms was required to provide both full and part time staff with wireless panic buttons in order to comply with the state’s Hotel Employee Safety Act. The panic button must come at no cost to the employee.
Panic buttons for hotel workers are not currently mandatory in Las Vegas or Nevada. However, unions in the city are pushing for new laws to be introduced to protect workers in the casinos and hotels that dominate the city and they are including the requirement when they renegotiate their collective bargaining agreements across the country.
Every year, new panic button laws are being introduced in cities and states across the US. In most of these areas, fines are imposed on businesses that fail to comply with the law. These fines can range from $25 per day to $10,000 per infraction. This shows the commitment of local and state authorities to the introduction of panic buttons and safety standards in the hotel industry overall.
Things to Consider When Evaluating Staff Safety
Whether your business is required by law to provide staff with panic buttons or not, evaluating staff safety is an important part of protecting employees and creating a healthy work environment.
According to attorney Greg Duff, who chairs the hospitality practice at Foster Garvey in Seattle, “These mandates are creating a standard, even for properties not directly affected by them,” he explained. “The problem of workplace harassment has been clearly established and well publicized, so hotels that choose to do nothing run the risk of being in violation and seen as negligent.”
Carrying out a staff safety evaluation can also help to inform your sexual harassment policy and your lone worker policy, two documents essential for keeping employees safe.
Get Hotel Panic Buttons for Staff Safety
Panic button systems can have a huge impact on staff safety. This makes them a popular safety solution in hotels and motels across the country. Hotel panic button solutions can be installed in public areas and guest rooms or used as wearable personal safety devices by hospitality workers.
Panic buttons allow hotel workers to call for help quickly and discreetly if they feel threatened by a guest or colleague. They also allow employees to summon help fast in case of an incapacitating trip, slip or fall, or guest emergency.
Connectivity of The Hotel Panic Button
Connectivity is a key issue when it comes to hotel panic buttons. Areas of dead signal can put workers at risk, so it’s essential to ensure that your panic button system doesn’t let staff members down with it’s most needed.
Creating a self-healing Bluetooth network is one of the best ways to prevent dead zones and ensure panic buttons function correctly at all times. Some systems work with wi-fi, cellular or LTE backup to ensure every inch of a property is covered. This is essential for determining the exact location of an incident or person in need of help.
Proper Training Is Important
Panic buttons themselves are very easy to use. However, it can be helpful to train staff on their benefits and discuss with them when activation is appropriate. Security personnel also need to be trained on how to respond quickly and effectively to an activation.
These training sessions can also provide a valuable opportunity to talk to staff about their safety concerns. Including employees in the discussion can help to inform your safety policy and give you the chance to address any other safety fears they may have.
Requirement of Notice
Some panic button laws require hotels and motels to notify guests that panic buttons are in use. Even if notifications aren’t required by law in your area, letting guests know that you have an alarm system in place can help to reduce instances of sexual assault and harassment. It also shows guests that you prioritize staff safety and won’t tolerate inappropriate or threatening behavior.
A record should be kept every time a panic button is activated. Creating a comprehensive record will allow you to assess the effectiveness of the system and give you the information you need to improve safety standards across the board.
Hotel panic buttons can have a significant impact on the safety and security of both hotel workers and the guests they serve. Installing a system in your premises can help to reduce instances of sexual assault and harassment and protect your workers. This in turn can help to improve staff morale, reduce employee turnover, boost profits, and make your hotel a safer place to be.
Find out more about the benefits of panic buttons, and learn how our Bluetooth panic button systems are already protecting hotel workers across the country, by taking a look around or getting in touch with a member of our team