New Study Reports High Injury Rates for Hotel Workers

A new study released on Aug. 27 at PREMUS, the Sixth International Scientific Conference on Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders, held in Boston, highlights the findings of a study on the differences in injury rates by race, ethnicity and gender of hotel workers in the United States.

Dr. Susan Buchanan, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, presented the alarming results that raise many questions as to why certain workers are getting injured at different rates. PREMUS is a prestigious academic conference, gathering researchers from around the world with the goal of preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

This first study ever on the differences in injury rates by race, ethnicity and gender of hotel workers in the United States utilized hotel employer records of work-related injuries and employee hiring list data. This is the largest study of hotel workers' injuries ever performed in the United States aside from data that the Department of Labor collects annually.

A sample of 35 union hotels in the "full-service" sector was selected for further study of disparities in injury rates by gender and race/ethnicity. This sample includes 16,000 workers employed annually with over 700 injuries occurring each year during the 2003-2005 time period.

Key findings of the study include:

  • The job titles included in this new injury study – room attendants, stewards/dishwashers, banquet servers and cooks/kitchen workers – represent 49 percent of the hotel workforce; therefore, these study findings require serious attention given the large number of workers affected in the hotel industry.
  • Disparities by gender: injury rates of 5.5 percent for females compared to 3.7 percent for males.
  • Disparities by race/ethnicity: injury rates of 4.9 percent for nonwhites compared to 3 percent for whites, with even higher rates by demographic subgroups.

The combination of increased risk by gender with the increased risk by race/ethnicity suggests an even greater increased risk for women of color. Injury rates for women of color were:

  • Female Hispanic stewards/dishwashers: 10 percent
  • Female Hispanic room attendants: 9.5 percent
  • Female Asian cooks: 8.9 percent
  • Female Hispanic banquet servers: 3.9 percent

Female Black Hotel Workers: 3.8 percent

Importance of the Findings

Along with scientific studies that show dangers to housekeepers from luxury rooms, bedding and amenities, this study looks at a variety of jobs in hotels and asks a more global question of employers: Why are injury rates of women hotel workers, workers of color and immigrant workers higher than the rates for all workers? And more importantly, what are hotel employers going to do about it?

According to Dr. Lida Orta-Anes, ergonomics expert and professor at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Puerto Rico, "This study is a first step towards identifying who, today is doing hotel work in the United States and who is getting injured on the job. The higher injury rates for women across all jobs and for Hispanics in specific jobs is alarming. More research is needed to get at the root of these injuries and difference in rates of injury."

Researchers also asked hotel employers to evaluate hazards of hotel jobs, implement existing remedies and face the challenges they have created in the hotel industry affecting workers' health and safety, and in particular the disparities in injury rates.

For more information about the study and other key fidings, visit http://www.unitehere.org/presscenter/release.php?ID=3258.

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