Mitigating the Risk of Food-Borne Illnesses at Hotels

Think of a hotel located near a stretch of bucolic farmland. Picture the large fields of crops, cows and sheep grazing behind picturesque fences. While this may seem like a calm and relaxing scenario, one that attracts guests eager to get a taste of the country life, they could be getting a mouthful of something much less appetizing. Flies are abundant in areas with livestock, and, unfortunately, can transmit food-borne diseases.

Ron Harrison, Ph.D., a technical services director at pest control specialist Orkin, is currently working with a number of hotels suffering from pest problems, and, as a result, compromised food safety. “Hotels have to do everything they can to ensure that pests don’t enter the property, because they can cause food-related illnesses if they get access to the property’s food supply,” Harrison says.

food borne

Pests are just one of many factors that can affect food safety and spread food-borne illnesses, which are a major issue in the United States. Francine Shaw, president of Food Safety Training Solutions, a company that offers food-related consulting and training services, says that food poisoning affects one in six Americans every year. And, in that same time frame, it also causes the hospitalization of 120,000 people and leads to 3,000 deaths. “It seems like every time we turn on the television, pick up a newspaper, or read the news online, there’s another outbreak. But the amazing thing is that the huge, multi-state outbreaks spotlighted in the news are only responsible for 11 percent of all food-borne illnesses,” she explains.

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Filed under Business Interruption Insurance, Claims, Food Illnesses, Guest Issues, Health, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Hotel Restaurant, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Hotel Workers Seek New Safety Measures After Freezer Death

Federal regulators and hotel employees are calling for new safety measures after a worker was found dead inside a walk-in freezer at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta.

Investigators believe Carolyn Mangham spent about 13 hours at temperatures below minus 10 Fahrenheit. Her frozen body was found after her husband called the hotel to report her missing.

Devices should be placed inside the large freezers so that anyone trapped or injured inside could send an alarm directly to hotel security or emergency services, union leaders say.

Hotel employees also want to carry “panic buttons” to alert others to emergencies.

freezer trapped alarm

“At the end of the day everyone deserves to go home to their families,” said Wanda Brown, who worked with Mangham at the hotel and is president of the Atlanta chapter of the UNITE HERE union.

“We’ve given our demands to the hotel and we are waiting for a response, but we will not stop asking for these things to be done,” Brown said.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing about $12,500 in penalties for a serious safety violation in the death of Mangham, 61, who also went by Carolyn Robinson.

In a Sept. 23 letter, OSHA recommended that the Atlanta hotel voluntarily develop a system of “notification and ongoing communication” for workers entering the walk-in freezers. The agency also recommends the hotel develop a system to periodically check on employees during their shifts.

“The OSHA report is part of an ongoing process and we are planning to contest their findings and recommendations,” Carrie Bloom, a Starwood spokeswoman, said in a statement Wednesday night.

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Hotel Restaurant, Liability, OSHA, Risk Management

Showing Housekeeping Staff Appreciation

Housekeepers are an integral part of the hotel industry, and employee appreciation is a professional form of endearment that not only boosts the morale of the workplace but also the quality of work being produced, with 91 percent of workers saying they feel motivated to do their best when they have leadership support. Madeline Chang, director of housekeeping at Aston Waikiki Sunset in Honolulu and director at large of the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA), explains why hoteliers should take a second look at how they appreciate their housekeeping staff.

housekeeping
How can hoteliers be better attuned to their housekeepers’ needs?
Housekeepers are the eyes and ears of any operation. They have a direct impact on your guests’ experience, so it’s important to listen to them and hear the challenges or frustrations they might be experiencing. While you can create an open-door policy that establishes a channel for them to communicate with you, not all housekeepers will do that, so you should take the time to regularly walk the floors and speak with them directly. Hold daily morning briefings (which is a must not only for them but for me to set the tone for the day), carry out observations, get them to communicate their thoughts and suggestions, and make them an integral part of the operation. This buy-in from the management team and teammates is extremely helpful. Always keep them in the loop.

What are some ways in which hoteliers are already getting it right with housekeeper appreciation?

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Filed under Employee Practices, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Housekeeping, Human Resources

The Impact of Training on Your Bottom Line

Training is an important aspect in every hotel as it is the basis for cultivating superior guest service, maintaining costs, retaining employees and increasing profitability. While some owners and operators may question the return on investment (ROI) of training, the effects of not placing importance on consistent, ongoing staff training can be far greater over the long run. Preparing employees for situations, outlining role responsibilities and explaining how they are important in overall success can lead to happier employees, alleviate misunderstandings, skirt potential issues and result in better guest experience. That leaves more time for staying focused and creating a positive guest experience.

Select a Training Method to Meet Your Property’s Needs

The good news about staff training is there are different methods to embrace for achieving your property goals. What often occurs is training becomes a mixture of solutions.

Outside Speakers

Hotel owners and operators may utilize outside speakers to visit a property ranging from brand representatives, motivational speakers to notable local personalities.

Employee Handbook

Most properties assemble an employee handbook for new hires, while branded hotels may pay to send a representative to conduct training sessions on their brand. The key to effective training is assuring the handbook is comprehensive and continually updated to reflect changes in roles, responsibilities, policies, etc.

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Filed under Employee Practices, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership

Hotel, travel industries join forces to urge congressional action on Zika funding

There are daily headlines about the Zika virus. Although local transmission of the disease is currently contained within a very limited space in southern Florida, public uncertainty abounds—especially around the state and among those with any plans to travel there. State and federal public health officials are working with the resources available to them—but the U.S. Congress, mired in election-year politicking, has failed to advance a Zika funding measure.

Zika

That needs to change immediately. Safeguarding the public health, on its own, demands action. But not to be dismissed is the potential economic damage to the Floridian and national economies simply because people are too apprehensive about Zika to go about their daily lives.

Travel avoidance due to Zika fears poses a serious challenge to our nation’s travel industry, which generates $2.1 trillion in economic output for the U.S., drives job creation across the United States, and is among the top 10 employers in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Travel and tourism has continuously played a major role in our country’s post-recession recovery. Continued inaction on Zika funding puts this recovery—and millions of American jobs—on shaky ground.

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Filed under Guest Issues, Health, Hotel Industry, Hotel Restaurant, Housekeeping

The Ransomware Dilemma: Is Paying Up a Good Idea?

The ongoing fight against ransomware attacks and the cyber criminals perpetuating this menace is more than a full-time job. In a cyber world without boundaries, ransomware has become a worldwide problem where no organization is immune to victimization.

According to some security experts, the first known reports of ransomware attacks took place in Russia in 2005. Over the past 10 years, these attacks have spread to all corners of the globe, successfully targeting hundreds of thousands of business systems and home PCs. And, the effects are mounting: the FBI reported ransomware-driven losses of $18 million over a 15-month period in 2014 and 2015.

The way ransomware works is by making an infected device unusable by locking the screen or system, encrypting its data and then demanding a ransom to unlock and decrypt this data. In some cases, once the user’s PC is infected, the ransomware also displays threatening messages disguised as coming from a law enforcement agency in order to appear credible while intimidating the PC owner. Payment is usually demanded in the form of bitcoins, a virtual currency that is untraceable.

ransomware

This is apparently what happened at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California in early February 2016 when it fell victim to malware, which locked the hospital’s computer infrastructure. According to reports, to remain operational and continue providing patient care, the hospital was forced to use “old school” methods including paper records, faxing, and good old-fashioned pen and paper.

In a letter regarding the attack, following a bitcoin payment of $17,000, hospital CEO Allen Stefanek stated “…The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key. In the best interest of restoring normal operations, we did this.”

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Filed under Business Interruption Insurance, Claims, Crime, Hotel Industry, Insurance, Management And Ownership, Privacy, Technology, Theft

Cart Prepping for Efficiency

A well-organized and well-stocked housekeeping cart is the key to efficiency. It enables room attendants to avoid wasting time looking for a cleaning item or making trips back to the linen room for more supplies. The specific amounts of items loaded onto a cart will vary according to the types of rooms being cleaned, the amenities offered by the property, and, of course, the size of the cart itself. A room attendant’s cart is generally spacious enough to carry all the supplies needed for a half-day’s room assignments.

housekeeping cart

Stocking the Cart
Most carts have three shelves—the lower two for linen and the top for cleaning supplies and amenity items. It is just as important not to overstock a cart as it is not to understock. Overstocking increases the risk that some items will be damaged, soiled, or stolen in the course of cleaning.
In most cases, all the cleaning supplies for the guestroom and bathroom are positioned in a hand caddy on top of the cart so that the room attendant does not have to bring the entire cart into the room.
A laundry bag is usually found at one end of the cart and a trash bag is at the other. A broom and vacuum are also positioned on either end of the cart for easy access. For safety and security reasons, personal items and room keys should not be stored on the cart.

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Housekeeping, Maintenance

New OSHA 300 Reporting Rules

OSHA has updated the rule that pertains to the reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses. The new rule requires certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness data beginning in 2017. The goal of the rule is to encourage employers to better identify hazards, address safety issues, and prevent future injuries and illnesses.

Work Injury reporting

New Electronic Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers with 20-249 employees in certain industries must electronically submit their Form OSHA 300A information for the year 2016 by July 1, 2017. Hotels (except Casino Hotels) and Motels, NAICS code 7211, are included in the “certain industries” listing.

  • These same employers must electronically submit their Form OSHA 300A information for 2017 by July 1, 2018.
  • Beginning in 2019, and every year thereafter, these employers must submit the Form OSHA information by March 2, 2019.

OSHA State Plan Alignment

OSHA State Plan states must adopt and enforce these requirements (or substantially identical requirements) within 6 months after the publication of the final rule.

New Whistleblower Protection

Prohibits employers from retaliation against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses. (Effective November 1, 2016)


 

REMEMBER

If an OSHA inspection occurs and your organization is required to keep an OSHA 300 log, you will need to present a copy during the inspection or within 4 hours of OSHA’s request for the log.


 

This information is available on the OSHA website.

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Hotel Restaurant, Injuries, OSHA, Training, Workers' Compensation

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Filed under Conferences, Crime, Guest Issues, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Risk Management, Theft, Training

Safety & Security Tips for Hotel Management

Providing an accommodating atmosphere that doesn’t compromise safety is the biggest challenge that hotels face. Achieving these goals requires a multifaceted plan that starts with staff training and guest education about safety and security issues. Management must also consistently enforce established security policies, such as allowing only registered guests on hotel property. Constant planning to stay ahead of these issues is also a must, especially when the hotel hosts public events.

hotel security

Control Access
Controlling access is an important part of hotel security planning to prevent criminals from stealing money and valuables from guest rooms. Management must train contractors and staff in controlling room key distribution and restricting access to registered guests only. During off-hours, security personnel should be stationed at all main access points to greet people, while deterring anyone with no business on the property, including disruptive or intoxicated non-guests.

 

Educate Guests
Hotel staff has a responsibility to educate guests about safety and security responsibilities. The challenge is getting the message across without negatively affecting the customer’s experience. For example, the bellman can stress the importance of locking hotel room doors to prevent strangers from entering. Front desk clerks can also discourage guests from actions that leave them vulnerable to thieves, such as flashing room keys or yelling room numbers across the lobby.

Patrol Public Areas
Technology has come a long way in helping hotels to upgrade basic security measures. Closed-circuit TV cameras with recording systems are essential for securing such busy public spaces as bars, docks, lounges, and parking lots. However, these areas also allow open access for disruptive persons, muggers and pickpockets. Active monitoring of the camera images by staff and proper lighting reduces the opportunities for such crimes. Offering a security concierge to escort guests also minimizes the risk of non-assaultive crimes, such as luggage thefts.

Advance Measures
Communicating basic safety and security measures becomes even more important at public events such as conventions, where travelers may feel as if they’re leaving real world dangers behind. To head off problems, management should send advance communiques to event attendees. The notices should contain basic safety tips, such as the need for locking doors, not leaving cellphones and laptops unattended, and being alert in public areas.

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Filed under Crime, Guest Issues, Management And Ownership, Risk Management