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Legionella bacteria were identified in 1976 as the cause of Legionnaires’ disease (a deadly pneumonia) and Pontiac fever. More recently, rates of contamination and infection have been on the rise across the United States and around the world. Not only are there new, unexpected sources of contamination, but also drinking water sources and infrastructure (in addition to premise plumbing) have been implicated in the increased spread of Legionella. In order to avoid expensive, public evacuation and closure, hotel operators are beginning to monitor their facilities for Legionella contamination.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Legionella infection has a 5 to 30 percent mortality rate and is responsible for at least 8,000 to 18,000 U.S. hospitalizations each year. The sick and elderly are most vulnerable, but anyone is susceptible. Each week there are new reports of Legionella contamination in hotels, cruise ships, and hospitals that has resulted in closure for remediation. Several high-profile deadly outbreaks have occurred recently, including one around Flint, Mich., (nine deaths) associated with its lead contamination. Twelve deaths from Legionnaires’ contracted at a hotel in the South Bronx last summer prompted New York State to pass a regulation on the monitoring of cooling towers for Legionella. Because contamination is intensifying—The Lancet reported a 219 percent increase in reported cases of infection during 2000-2009—incidents like these, and subsequent regulations like New York’s, are expected to become more common.
Legionella prefers warm, wet environments, but because it can grow in a wide range of temperatures and conditions, it is ubiquitous in both natural and industrial environments. Infection occurs after inhalation, so any process that creates fine water droplets or aerosols (evaporative condensers, showers, spas, pools, decorative water features, or sprinklers) can spread Legionella. More unusual cases of infection have occurred as well. Recently, The New England Journal of Medicine reported strong evidence of person-to-person transmission. Grocery store produce misters in the United States and abroad have caused outbreaks when not cleaned regularly. Particularly surprising was the spread of Legionella through communities in Spain by street paving and cleaning trucks, resulting in 59 cases and 11 deaths. In these cases, identifying, removing, and cleaning the vehicles responsible ended the outbreaks.
In its Hotel Safety and Security Assessment Form, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) recommends that procedures be in place to monitor and mitigate Legionella. It is essential to detect the bacteria early with a rapid, on-site test, allowing prompt, targeted treatment. This will minimize the risk of more extensive contamination leading to closure and undesirable publicity, or worse, infection of employees or guests. However, the Legionella detection methods currently in use fail to meet all of the above criteria. Culturing, the method recommended by ASHRAE Standard 188-2015 for building water systems, is generally accurate and quantitative, but very slow (one to two weeks), and, for multiple reasons, plagued by false negatives. PCR is faster, though not rapid (8-24 hours), not quantitative, and is subject to both false positives and negatives. Both methods are elaborate and expensive, cannot be performed on-site, and require scientific training. Strip tests are simple, but not quantitative, and do not detect all of the deadly species of Legionella.
A new method being adopted by hotel chains and cruise lines, called immunomagnetic separation capture enzyme immunoassay (IMS-CEIA), meets the need for a fast, on-site Legionella test without the disadvantages of the other methods. With minimal training, it can be used by facility employees to monitor water systems and cooling towers, so that when necessary, prompt action can be taken while a subset of samples are sent for confirmation by culture testing.
The continued global expansion of Legionella contamination and outbreaks has heightened the need for preventive monitoring by the hospitality industry. Incorporation of a testing program that can be performed on-site by hotel staff will enable rapid, targeted mitigation.
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High levels of customer satisfaction in the hospitality and leisure industries are critical to the success of any property. It is even more challenging to maintain customer satisfaction while reducing costs associated with employee injuries and the workers’ compensation claims. Employees are continually trained on the nuances of customer service skills and customer interactions in order to achieve the best levels of service. However, maintaining a high level of productivity is difficult when employees have been injured. Increasing injury rates result in higher workers’ compensation insurance, medical care, and claim costs.
Taking a look at the causes of work-related injuries, implementing standardized work practices, and making simple changes can yield a significant decrease in injury risk and an increase in productivity. A single property within a national hotel chain has been able to decrease its workers’ compensation costs by $500,000 in the first year while improving its customer satisfaction ratings.
Within the U.S. hospitality and leisure industry, food services and accommodations employees represent 12.9 million of the 15 million employees. In 2014, the recordable injury rate among these employees was 3.6 injuries per 100 full-time employees. These injury rates can be higher among employees in departments such as housekeeping and banquet operations. One study indicated that up to 95 percent of the housekeepers indicated they experienced severe to very severe physical pain.
Any effective ergonomics and process improvement program should include aspects such as management support, employee involvement, training, problem identification, early reporting of injury symptoms, evaluation of hazard controls, implementation of hazard controls, and evaluation of progress.
Let’s take a look at housekeeping: Their work ensures proper cleaning as well as maintaining the visual standards of the brand. Over the past decade, consumers’ expectations of luxury as it relates to hotel rooms have increased. Furnishings are more luxurious and often include thicker mattresses, plush duvets, decorative bed skirts, and the inclusion of a variety of pillows.
In an effort to reduce injury risk while maintaining or improving customer satisfaction within a housekeeping department, we reviewed common tasks and identified the tasks that were most likely to cause injury. A detailed study was conducted of these common housekeeping tasks, such as cleaning bathrooms, changing and making beds, and removing trash and soiled linen. The evaluations determined the extent of injury risk factors and opportunities to improve the quality of the services performed. After the analysis, recommendations were made related to the selection of appropriate tools, the modification of techniques for cleaning showers and bath tubs to decrease awkward postures and minimize forces, and the identification of methods to minimize awkward postures and forces while changing beds and handling trash and dirty linens. One key factor in the success of these changes was training the employees in the appropriate methods, injury risk factors, and the proper use of tools. The changes made within the housekeeping department decreased duvet-making time by 32 percent while maintaining a standard look; reduced the number of awkward shoulder postures by 72 percent; and reduced the number of awkward back postures by 45 percent. Guests indicated an improvement by a 5 percent increase in customer cleanliness ratings.
Another department that commonly experiences a high number of injuries is the banquet operations department. Within the banquets area, server and setup tasks were also evaluated. Following similar principles, tasks were identified that had previously caused injury or were difficult to perform. Evaluations were again conducted and recommendations were made. These recommendations involved working with vendors to identify the changes to carts that could make the most impact on decreasing push/pull forces while not decreasing the load on the carts. Additionally, standardized methods of room setup and table movement were established. These simple changes and employee training yielded a decrease in injury risk, improved employee morale, and increased efficiency.
Maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction while minimizing employee injuries and workers’ compensation costs in hospitality and leisure industry is critical to the success of any property. Evaluation of tasks by a qualified professional (such as a certified professional ergonomist) can ensure that risk factors are appropriately identified and that the recommendations will adequately reduce injury risk. Minimizing costs, reducing injuries, improving efficiency, and improving customer satisfaction ratings are benefits of a successful ergonomics and process improvement program.
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Mobility may be one of the most important elements in maintaining personal autonomy. And now, thanks to the incredible technology behind robotic exoskeletons, the elderly, the injured, and many others can experience mobility like never before. In a new video, Panasonic unveils its latest achievements in the robotics field, applying advanced control and sensor technologies to create a motor-equipped robot that will assist with human body mechanics.
Panasonic has developed a pair of suits — one meant primarily for industrial purposes, and another to help the disabled. The power assist suits will help users perform manual labor and potentially dangerous tasks in a range of worksites, and Hiromichi Fujimoto, president of Activelink Co. (one of Panasonic’s in-house venture companies) noted, “We are proposing robotics to help at these worksites, because there will always be a certain level of work that must be done by people, and these power assist suits can help reduce the physical strain during such work.”
To help with lifting and carrying heavy loads, Panasonic has introduced the AWN-03, an assist suit designed specifically to provide lower back support. By sensing the wearer’s motion when lifting or holding heavy objects, the suit sends a signal to its motors to jump into action. By raising the user’s upper body while simultaneously pushing on their thighs, the suit promises to reduce stress on the lower back by 15 kg.
There are also two additional suits that could be used in industrial settings — the PLN-01 (the “Ninja”) is meant to help the user’s motion while walking and running, whereas the Power Loader is heralded as a powerful suit perfect for use during disaster relief, construction, and public works.
On the other end of the spectrum, Panasonic has unveiled suits meant for the elderly. “As Japan has becomes an aging society, Panasonic is aspiring to make its contribution by supporting the elderly and their families lead a comfortable life full of smiling faces and laughter” explained Hitoshi Sasaki, assistant director of Sincere Kourien, an elderly care facility run by Panasonic Age-Free. “There are many instances that can be straining to both caregivers and care recipients. Just moving from the bed to a wheelchair can be a very energy consuming for both parties.”
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Workplace violence can be defined as any act that creates intimidating, hostile, and offensive or a threatening work environment through unwelcome words, actions or physical contact.Â As we have seen on multiple occasions, workplace violence and active shooter occurrences have been on a steady incline in this country.Â Are you and your company prepared?
There are two types of workplace violence that need to be taken into consideration. First is the external variety â€“ criminal activity from a non-employee, client or customer.Â Second is the internal variety of a problem employee, employee personal relationship, hostile individual due to disciplinary actions or a facility closing.Â Be prepared by taking some very easy measures:
The potential deadly situations are reasonably foreseeable and this should be the standard used for compliance and determination of liability. Understand what data you need to assist in the prevention of workplace violence.Â You not only have a legal responsibility but the obligation to your workforce.Â Negligent hiring, high-risk terminations, retention, security, and poor training open you and your organization to the possibility of a workplace violence incident.Â Human resources plays a key role in your workplace violence plan through effective pre-employment screening, establishing discrete communications channels, an Employee Assistance Program and coordination with your security personnel regarding response plans.
Coordinate a case assessment team and make sure they understand their purpose, make-up, objectives, and documentation measures.Â The need to recognize the behavioral warning signs that signal potential trouble and that evaluation of behavior is not â€˜profilingâ€™.
Remember, ignorance does not relieve an organization of responsibility.Â In summation, an organization has a Duty of Care responsibility to their employees and must plan, train, recognize, manage and respond to this growing problem within the business community.
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A juryâ€™s decision this week to award sportscaster Erin Andrews $55 million in a civil suit against her stalker and the owner and management company of the Nashville hotel in which the man secretly videotaped her will have repercussions for the hotel industry for years to come, sources said.
In 2008, Michael David Barrett recorded Andrews while she was nude through the peephole of her hotel guestroom at the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University. Barrett, who later pleaded guilty to felony stalking in 2009, discovered which room was Andrewsâ€™ and reversed the peephole in the door to see inside. The jury in Andrewsâ€™ civil suit found Barrett, as well as the owner of the hotel, West End Hotel Partners, and the management company, Windsor Capital Group, to be responsible.
Andrews had originally included Marriott International in her original suit; however, the court in Tennessee found that Marriott had no liability in the case, and dismissed it.
Stephen Barth, a professor of hospitality law at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston and founder of hospitalitylawyer.com, testified on behalf of the defense during the civil trial. The defendants in this case did what they were supposed to do, Barth said in an interview with HNN, and he believes that because the companies were focused and diligent on their policies, procedures and employee training, it gave the jury members pause during their deliberations.
With the outcome of the case, Barth stressed that just as before, itâ€™s important for hoteliers to have the right policies and procedures in place as well as the proper training for staff to deal with guest privacy issues.
â€œYou need to be able to demonstrate the training that went on, the frequency and outcomes,â€ Barth said. â€œHow do you evaluate whether the training was effective? Ultimately, you have to be able to demonstrate this in a courtroom.â€
David Samuels, partner at Michelman & Robinson, said one of the issues that jumped out at him in following the trial was whether the management company had the proper policies and procedures in place regarding guest privacy. He said he believes several jury members were bothered by the testimony of some hotel staff who couldnâ€™t recall having those policies. Samuels followed the trial but was not directly involved in it.
At this point, all owners and operators should review how theyâ€™re running their properties and whether they have specific written policies and procedures in place.
â€œThey need to have those and effectively train the staff on it,â€ Samuels said.
Along with having those policies in place, hoteliers should regularly update those policies based on legal developments, such as the Andrews case, according to Sylvia St. Clair, an associate with Faegre Baker Daniels. If thereâ€™s any question about whether a policy is in compliance with the law or industry standards, she said, contact legal counsel or the human resources department.
â€œThen ensure (that) new hires receive that training as well as existing employees,â€ she said.
If a front-desk associate receives a request for a guestâ€™s private information, such as his or her guestroom number, St. Clair said the associate should know not to give that information out unless he or she is authorized to do so. The associate should know to contact his or her manager or supervisor with questions.
â€œYou want a statement to give to (anyone) requesting information,â€ St. Clair said. â€œMake sure employees know if they are receiving these types of requests, and the person requesting is continually asking, they shouldnâ€™t hesitate to get their manager or GM involved.â€
After completing the training, St. Clair said, document the training in employeesâ€™ files to show they received the latest version of the policy and understand it.
During the civil trial, there was a dispute over how Andrews stalker learned which guest room was hers, Samuels said.
Andrews attorneys argued her stalker learned from the front-desk staff, an allegation the associates denied during the trial. Her stalker, Barrett, said in a taped deposition that he figured out Andrews room number by using an internal house phone at the hostess stand in the hotel restaurant.
â€œThose are only supposed to be used by employees,â€ Samuels said.
Barrett called the front desk and asked to speak with Andrews, Samuels said, and when the line was connected, Andrews room number appeared on the phoneâ€™s LCD screen. Barrett then went to her floor, saw the room next to hers was being turned over and then requested at the front desk to be in that room.
â€œFrom a privacy standpoint, from a safety standpoint, hotel guests should never be allowed to use an internal house phone that displays the room number on an LCD screen,â€ Samuels said.
If guests need a house phone, he said, they should be directed to one without an LCD screen and it should connect to an operator.
Similarly, hotel employees should be aware of who may be looking over their shoulders when using phones that display room numbers, he said.
In the plaintiffâ€™s closing argument, Andrews attorneys asked why the front-desk staff was not more critical about someone asking for a specific room, especially one next door to Andrews, according to Christian Stegmaier, a shareholder at Collins & Lacy. Stegmaier followed the case but was not directly involved in it.
That argument might presume too much about Andrewsâ€™ fame at the time, he said, as the front-desk associate may not have put two and two together.
â€œThe takeaway from all of that is when you have a prospective guest making very specific requests, like about specific rooms, you need to be critical (of it),â€ he said.
Asking some gentle questions might allow the associate to learn a little more about the person making the request and why that specific room is so important to them, Stegmaier said.
â€œFrom a management perspective, you need to empower your associates to use that kind of critical thinking,â€ he said. â€œYou want to encourage that.â€
That is doubly important when the front-desk staff is aware of any celebrities or dignitaries staying in the hotel, Samuels said. Any requests for a specific room adjacent to such guests should send up a â€œbig, red flag,â€ he said.
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Troubling events in the global economyâ€”stock market volatility, weak growth in China, and plunging oil prices, among othersâ€”coupled with a moderate slowdown in industry growth, have hoteliers more cautious regarding new business opportunities. However, hiccups in the global economy do not mean the hospitality world stops turning. Hoteliers still find themselves in a time of healthy growth and industry dynamism, and many owners are looking to reposition their properties while the economy can support it.
That said, property improvements can still be expensive. This especially holds true for brand-mandated property improvement plans (PIPs), which some say have become increasingly aggressive in recent years. According to Boaz Ashbel, managing director of the Aztec Group, a full-service investment banking firm located in Miami, Fla., one of the main drivers of this push is the industryâ€™s desire to capture the millennial demographic, whose footprint in the hospitality marketplace grows larger every year.â€ Many brands are changing the look and feel of their properties to try and appease the millennial traveler,â€ Ashbel says. â€œThis is true both in new brands and in PIPs for established brandsâ€”all of the decision makers have the same goal, and itâ€™s something that hotel owners and operators will have to tackle sooner rather than later.â€
There are several situations in which hoteliers may find themselves facing an aggressive PIP or redevelopment project. One of the most common in todayâ€™s economic climate happens when a property changes hands. â€œIf the hotel isnâ€™t entirely up-to-date regarding brand standards, it may present a problem for a potential buyer,â€ Ashbel cautions. This is because when a hotel falls under new ownership, the franchise is not assumed by the new ownerâ€”he or she must apply for the flag as though they are applying for a new franchise. And, for a hotel to meet the requirements of a new franchise, it must reflect the latest brand standards. â€œAn astute owner who is planning to sell a particular property is wise to order a change of ownership PIP from the brand before even exposing that hotel to the market,â€ Ashbel says.
Due to the very active state of the lodging marketplace, with a huge number of properties being bought and sold, most lenders know that every branded property they work with will likely have a PIP component. â€œMoreover, they should be demanding that the money that will be acquired for the PIP is going to be put up and reserved in closing exclusively for the PIP,â€ adds Ashbel, who says that every single transaction heâ€™s seen in this time of high activity has had some sort of a PIP component.
And, per Ashbel, hoteliers looking to acquire a property and keep it branded, or rebrand it under a new flag, should always plan for investments in an improvement plan. â€œIf the buyer doesnâ€™t take these steps, sheâ€™s in for a rude awakening when she goes to sign her franchise agreement,â€ he says.
But what if youâ€™re a hotelier who isnâ€™t in the process of buying or selling a property but still needs to pay for a large-scale PIP or renovation? Peter Berk, president of PMZ Realty Capital, a hotel finance group based in New York City, explains that refinancing could be the answer if the hotelier doesnâ€™t have the liquid capital on hand. â€œThere is a lot of refinancing going on right now in the lodging industry for renovations and PIPs,â€ he says. For example, if someone has a $6 million loan pending due, and he needs to take on a major PIP, he can refinance the property for $8 million and have the lender hold back the difference for the PIP. â€œWe see this type of situation quite often,â€ Berk adds.
Luckily for hoteliers, there are a wide variety of lenders in the hospitality marketplace who still have a lot of liquidity available for loans. â€œThere are a bunch of lenders out there offering different types of loansâ€”furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) loans, credit funds, bridge loans, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, commercial mortgage-backed security (CMBS) loans, regular bank loansâ€”everything just depends on the hotelâ€™s business plan,â€ Berk explains.
Jordan Ray, managing director of financial advisory firm Mission Capitalâ€™s debt and equity finance group, says that while there are many loan options out there, it is getting increasingly difficult to finance improvement plans. â€œAs a whole, the financing business for hotels is certainly tighter than it was a year ago,â€ he says. Ray attributes this tightening to the high levels of supply in the lodging marketplace, especially in primary markets like New York City.
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CH&LA alerted its members last year that legal claims were being asserted against numerous lodging properties for refusing to rent to unaccompanied minors. The person at the center of most of those claims (Jonathan Asselin-Normand) is continuing his long-running campaign against California lodging properties raising such claims.
As CH&LA has repeatedly advised its members, both the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit blanket policies denying accommodations to people solely because they are unaccompanied minors.Â The minimum damages for violating the Unruh Act is $4,000, plus attorney’s fees.
However, where a minor unaccompanied by an adult seeks accommodations, hotel staff may require a parent or guardian of the minor, or another responsible adult, to assume, in writing, full liability for any and all proper charges and other obligations incurred by the minor for accommodations, food and beverages, and other services provided by or through the innkeeper, as well as for any and all injuries or damage caused by the minor to any person or property.Â California Code 1865(d)(1).
What Members Should Do ASAP:
If you have questions about this, feel free to contact CH&LA’s Member Legal Advisor, Jim Abrams, atÂ email@example.com.
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