Hotel Work Becoming More Dangerous, Study Says

Hotel housekeepers earn their living by making a traveler's hotel stay as comfortable as possible. But in the process, housekeepers are enduring persistent pain and injury, according to one study.

The study titled "Creating Luxury, Enduring Pain," conducted by a group of occupational medicine experts in conjunction with the union UNITE HERE concludes that housekeepers consistently face pain and disproportionately high rates of workplace injury.

Also, as the workload and physical demands of the job have increased in recent years with hotels introducing new room amenities such as luxury beds with heavy mattresses, triple sheeting and heavy duvets the rate of musculoskeletal disorders among hotel housekeepers is on the rise, according to the study.

"Work like hotel room cleaning has been shown over and over again to increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, such as low back pain and tendonitis," said Laura Punnett, an occupational epidemiologist and ergonomist at the University of Massachusetts. "The prevalence of low back pain and related symptoms is unusually high in hotel workers."

'I Would Sit on the Beds and Cry Because it Hurt So Much'

Utilizing a comprehensive analysis of employer records of worker injuries for the years 1995 through 2005 and covering more than 60 hotel properties with approximately 40,000 hotel employees, the study couples new research and anecdotal evidence to paint a dramatic picture of what it's like to be a hotel housekeeper.

One story comes from Valessie McCaskill, a housekeeper at the Chicago Hilton and Towers who said that there would be times her leg would swell up to the extent that she would have to limp from one room to another.

"When the pain was at its worst, I would sit on the beds and cry because it hurt so much," she said.

One of the findings included a survey of more than 600 hotel housekeepers, in which 91 percent reported experiencing workplace pain. Other findings indicated that during the 1999 to 2005 period, hotel housekeepers faced an injury rate of 10.4 percent, which is over 86 percent higher than the injury rate experienced by non-housekeepers (5.6 percent).

During that same time period, housekeepers faced a 61.4 percent higher risk of injury compared to all hotel workers.

Union Threatens its Biggest Strike Ever

According to UNITE HERE, hotel workers nationwide are coming together to improve working conditions through the Hotel Workers Rising campaign, not only to try to boost wages and benefits but also in an effort to reduce workplace pain and injury.

These will be the some of issues the union will discuss with Hilton, Starwood and other hotel chains. If no agreement is made, the union claims it will embark on its biggest strike ever one that could involve hundreds of hotels in New York, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Toronto, the union says.

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