Greening Offers Safety, Health Advantages for the Hospitality Industry

A new white paper released by the hospitality branch of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) indicates that a focus on greening within the hospitality industry can minimize environmental impact and reduce safety and health risks for employees and guests.

The white paper, “Safety Implications of Greening: Hospitality Executive Leadership Opportunities,” points out that greening reduces the use and production of hazardous products and materials, which in turn can improve indoor air quality for employees and guests.

The paper suggests ways in which hospitality businesses can incorporate greening efforts in areas such as housekeeping, maintenance, water usage, HVAC, operating systems and lighting. For example, the hospitality industry can make “green” improvements by conserving hot water and using more energy efficient equipment in heating, cooling, lighting. Choosing similarly efficient and eco-friendly construction materials for remodeling or expansions also can make an impact.

In addition to helping the environment and reducing safety or health risks, greening can drastically reduce costs. EPA statistics indicate that for every dollar invested in making a hotel greener through energy efficient upgrades, the facility brings in $6.27.

The greening movement within the hospitality industry first emerged in the 1970s as a way to address escalating energy costs and to alleviate the mounting energy management concerns during the 1973-1974 Middle East oil embargo. Since then, and with the assistance of a grant from the Department of Energy, the lodging industry has become “the most knowledgeable in actual energy, even more than heavy industries such as steel and automobile manufacture.”

Safety Professionals Can Address Greening Safety Challenges

Going green, however, comes with its own challenges. The white paper cited an example of a chemical replacement during a furniture spray operation. While the new chemical was more environmentally friendly, it posed health hazards for workers and required additional personal protective equipment (PPE), including respirators, eye protection and gloves. Rising PPE costs and new requirements for air monitoring and medical surveillance, as well as the “administrative burden required to manage the program,” resulted in the operation being discontinued.

Because greening efforts potentially can increase existing safety risks or introduce new ones, the white paper suggests that the hospitality industry apply the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, which was created and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Participating in LEED, the white paper noted, can enable hospitality safety professionals to address safety-related issues up front, before taking steps to implement environmentally conscious designs within their facilities.

The white paper also advocated seeking guidance from safety professionals, who can assist in properly designing systems that are not only green, but also prevent worker injuries and illnesses.

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