Hotel Staff Injury Attorneys in Boston
Unfortunately, Boston hotel work injury is not uncommon. Our legal team in Boston at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman recognize these workers have a wide range of duties, as they tend to every element of guest experience. That means they are exposed to different hazards and thus suffer a wide range of injuries, even though they may all work in and around the same setting.
Massachusetts - and Boston in particular - is a prime destination for tourism and business functions. The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism reports there are 42 million visitors to the Commonwealth each year - that includes domestic, Canadian and overseas visitors. It's big business for the state, supporting nearly 140,000 jobs. Hotels and other businesses profit considerably, and they have a responsibility to keep their workers safe.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 29 U.S.C. §650 requires employers to provide workplaces that are free from recognized hazards which cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
Employees at hotels include:
- Porter/ valet
- Event planner
- General manager
- Executive chef
- Line cook
- Maintenance worker
- Front desk clerk
Whether workers are employed at an upscale, luxury hotel or a roadside motel, many of the same workplace hazards exist in the workplace.
Some repeated sources of Massachusetts hotel worker injuries include:
- Manual handling. This could include moving kegs, carrying cartons, moving luggage, making beds or pushing trays. This often leads to repetitive motion injuries to the musculoskeletal system, but also acute trauma to the knees, elbows, shoulder, neck and lower back. These problems have worsened as hotel industry competition has gotten fiercer, leading many hotels to invest in super thick mattresses, more pillows, and other individual guest amenities, leading to more work for housekeepers - who are tasked with responsibility for an increasing number of rooms-a-day. In fact, the problem
- Slips, trips, and falls. Whether in "front of the house" or "back of the house," hotel workers frequently encounter spills and other hazards that can make navigating floors or stairs perilous. Wearing non-slip footwear can help, but hotels need good lighting, routine maintenance (fixing leaks, pipes, etc.), investment in no-slip rugs and policies for staff to regularly check for hazards and clean and clear floors as quickly as possible.
- Hazardous chemicals. Those who clean individual hotel rooms, lobbies, and kitchens use a lot of heavy duty cleaners. Exposure to these chemicals can pose a risk of burns, eye irritation, skin irritation and more. Workers should be given proper personal protective equipment and adequate training. Hotel management should ensure chemicals are properly stored when not in use.
- Burns, cuts, and scalds. This is more common in hotel kitchens (particularly those working with fryers and boiling water), though hospitality workers carrying trays to and from rooms may be prone as well. Maintenance workers in hotels may suffer electrical burns or chemical burns. In professional kitchens, employees may suffer cuts or lacerations while using or cleaning slicers, mincers, knives, and mixers. Workers must be properly trained and supervised, and slicers should have appropriate machine guards.
- Electrical hazards. This is especially a problem in older historic hotels, where modernizing may have occurred piecemeal (and sometimes too hastily or improperly). Maintenance workers may be especially vulnerable, but the risk is there for any worker who encounters electrical double adaptors (which also pose a fire risk), damaged extension leads, cords in wet areas (guest rooms included) and portable electronic equipment.
- Workplace violence. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 18 percent of all violent crimes appear in the workplace, and 21 percent of workplace crimes involve weapons (usually a gun). Hotel workers are vulnerable to crimes committed by guests (including sexual assault, battery or gun violence), as well as robberies and acts of vengeance by disgruntled current or former employees and members of the public. Those who work in isolation in guest rooms, such as hotel cleaners (often minority women, sometimes immigrants) may be especially vulnerable to danger. Hotel security may also face the potential risk of injury while dealing with or ejecting unruly guests.
- Excess noise. The hospitality industry environment is a noisy one. There are clanging pots and pans, whirring laundry machines and dishwashers, ventilation systems, vacuums, coffee grinders, beeping, guest chatter, loud traffic at the front doors, blaring music and more. An excess noise problem arises if you must raise your voice while talking to someone 3.5 feet away. Repetitive exposure over long stretches of time can result in hearing loss.
- Heat illness. Many hotel workers report suffering heat stress or even heat stroke while loading/ unloading supplies, working in kitchens or cleaning rooms - especially if the premises is poorly ventilated. Aside from just being uncomfortable, overexposure to heat can result in serious and even deadly illness.
- Biohazards. Anytime you work with people, there is the potential risk of exposure to biohazards, including bodily fluids, needles and more. This risk is especially high for housekeeping staffers.
- Falls. Those responsible for hotel construction or even maintenance (especially window cleaning) may be at serious risk for falls from heights. In Boston, one such incident occurred in 2018 when two construction workers suffered serious injuries when they fell 18 feet. Another incident at the Marriott Copley Place hotel in Boston in 2017 involved a worker injured in a fall while hanging banners from the second story.
The director of the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace co-authored a study not long ago on gender and racial disparities among unionized hotel worker injuries. The report discovered women hotel workers were 1.5 times more likely to be injured than men, and Hispanic women were nearly twice as likely to be injured as their white counterparts. Hispanic and Asian males were 1.5 times more likely to suffer a hotel injury than white men.Hotel Houseworkers at High Risk
All-in-all, housekeepers face the highest risk of hotel worker injury.
One study published in 2006 analyzed seven years of data among 40,000 hotel workers and found housekeepers suffered far greater risk of injury than other hotel and service workers.
Unite Here, a labor union representing workers in the hospitality industry, estimates the majority of hotel housekeepers have suffered sexual harassment at least at some point in the course of their work, usually by guests.
This risk was underscored internationally in 2011 when Frenchman Dominque Strauss-Kahn, leader of the International Monetary Fund, was accused of sexually assaulting a maid in a luxury hotel in New York when she went to the room to clean it. He insisted the encounter was consensual. He was arrested, but those charges were later dropped. He did pay an undisclosed sum in a civil lawsuit.
An increasing number of hotels are equipping housekeepers with a "panic button" alarm, to be worn on wrists or in one's pocket, so they can call for help immediately if they find themselves in trouble. These buttons are useful not just to summon aid in the midst of a violent attack, but also if the worker suffers any kind of injury, such as a fall, that may render them unable to otherwise call for help.
Workers' compensation attorneys- in Boston can help workers attacked or otherwise injured on-the-job to obtain benefits from their employer, as well as potentially pursue third-party litigation for additional compensation.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.