Hotels and restaurants are found in every country. The economy of hotels and restaurants is intimately tied to the tourism industry, to business travel and to conventions. In many countries, the tourism industry is a major part of the overall economy.
The primary function of a restaurant is to provide food and drink to people outside the home. Types of restaurants include restaurants (which are often costly) with dining rooms and extensive serving staffs; smaller, “family-style” restaurants and cafes which often service the local community; “diners”, or restaurants where serving short-order meals at counters is the major feature; fast food restaurants, where people line up at counters to place their orders and where meals are available in a few minutes, often for taking out to eat elsewhere; and cafeterias, where people go through serving lines and make their selections from a variety of already prepared foods, which are usually displayed in cases. Many restaurants have separate bar or lounge areas, where alcoholic beverages are served, and many larger restaurants have special banquet rooms for groups of people. Street vendors serving food from carts and stalls are common in most countries, often as part of the informal sector of the economy.
The primary function of a hotel is to provide lodging for guests. Types of hotels range from basic overnight facilities, such as inns and motels that cater to business travellers and tourists, to elaborate luxury complexes, such as resorts, spas and convention hotels. Many hotels offer auxiliary services such as restaurants, bars, laundries, health and fitness clubs, beauty salons, barber shops, business centres and gift shops.
Restaurants and hotels can be individually or family-owned and operated, owned by partnerships or owned by large corporate entities. Many corporations do not actually own individual restaurants or hotels in the chain but rather grant a franchise of a name and style to local owners.
The restaurant workforce can include chefs and other kitchen staff, waiters and head waiters, table busing staff, bartenders, a cashier and coatroom personnel. Larger restaurants have staffs which can be highly specialized in their job functions.
The workforce in large a hotel typically will include reception clerks, door and bell persons, security personnel, parking and garage staff, housekeepers, laundry workers, maintenance personnel, kitchen and restaurant workers and office staff.
Most hotel jobs are “blue collar” and require minimal language and literacy skills. Women and immigrant workers comprise the bulk of the workforce in most hotels in developed countries today. In developing countries, hotels tend to be staffed by local residents. Because hotel occupancy levels tend to be seasonal, there is usually a small group of full-time employees with a sizeable number of part-time and seasonal workers. Salaries tend to be in the middle to low income range. As a result of these factors, employee turnover is relatively high.
In restaurants, workforce characteristics are similar, although men comprise a larger proportion of the workforce in restaurants than in hotels. In many countries salaries are low, and the staff waiting on and busing tables may depend on gratuities for a major portion of their income. In many places, a service charge is automatically added to the bill. In fast food restaurants, the workforce are often teenagers and the pay is at the minimum wage.
Restaurants can range in size from a small local diner to a large hotel restaurant, and generally consist of three main areas: the kitchen, where the preparation and cooking of meals takes place; the food service, which provides the service of food to guests in the restaurant; and the bar, a lounge which provides live or recorded entertainment and sales of alcoholic beverages and food.
Kitchen personnel include chefs and cooks, who are responsible for preparing and cooking food; pantry persons, who prepare the food for cooking and also keep an inventory of stock; and stewards, who are responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the kitchen area.
Several different types of accidents can occur in the kitchen area, such as burns from deep fryers, slipping on grease and cuts from knives. Lack of maintenance or improper maintenance in the kitchen area can lead to accidents. Floors that have been mopped should always have a “Wet Floor” placard posted, or kitchen personnel may slip and injure themselves. Trays of food or dishes must be stored securely or they will topple over. Non-slip mats and non-slip floor waxes should be used at entrances and exits. Passageways should always be kept free of boxes, trash cans and other obstacles. Conditions that could cause an accident, such as loose floor tiles, exposed wiring, spills and so on, should always be reported and dealt with as soon as possible and a reporting mechanism should be in place in the workplace.
Another cause of accidents is not using the proper equipment to reach items kept on upper shelves. Items on high shelves should only be retrieved by using a ladder or step stool and not by climbing on boxes or chairs. This means that ladders and step stools must be kept in a convenient location and be in good repair.
Machines, cutting equipment and knives
Accidents and injuries can be common in the kitchen unless safety procedures are properly exercised. The type of machinery used and the high level of activity and pressure in restaurant kitchens during serving hours increase the risk of accidents.
Some common types of machinery used in kitchens are meat grinders, mixers, ice machines and dishwashing machines. Misuse or improper use of this machinery can result in cuts, limbs caught in moving parts and electric shock. To prevent these types of accidents from occurring, kitchen personnel should receive thorough training prior to using the equipment, and should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation. Other measures to prevent injury are: ensuring equipment is turned off and unplugged before cleaning; wearing snug-fitting clothing with no loose jewellery that can fall off or be caught in the equipment while operating the machinery (long-haired employees should wear hair nets for the same reason); and regular servicing by authorized personnel. One must always avoid pushing food through equipment with one’s hands.
Meat slicers are commonly used in kitchens for slicing meats, fruits and vegetables, and are potentially the most dangerous of any kitchen equipment. Mechanical machine guards must always be in place when slicers are being used. Caution must always be used when cleaning the equipment, particularly when the blades are exposed. When workers finish using the slicer, it should be returned to the zero position and unplugged.
Knives can inflict severe wounds if they are improperly used or stored. Kitchen personnel frequently use knives to chop and dice vegetables and meat prior to cooking. Methods to prevent injuries include: using knives only for the purpose for which they were intended (e.g., not as can openers); ensuring that knives are sharp, since a dull knife requires more pressure and is more likely to slip; carrying knives by the handle, with the blade pointed down; and storing knives in their proper place immediately after cleaning.
Stoves and ovens
Skin burns are the main hazard experienced by kitchen personnel using stoves and ovens. Burns can range from a slight scald to a third-degree burn. Preventive measures include always using oven mitts when lifting pot lids, when transporting pots and when removing hot items from the oven. Oven areas must always be kept free of grease build-up to prevent slipping or accidental fires. If gas ovens are being used, the pilot light must be lit before lighting the oven.
Deep fat fryers are commonly used in kitchens for deep frying various meats and vegetables. The most common hazard associated with these units is skin burns from the splashing of hot grease. Measures that can be taken to ensure the safe use of deep fat fryers are: ensuring that the oil does not overheat and start a fire; cleaning away any grease on the floor around the fryer; preventing overflows by not overfilling the fryer with oil; and using extreme care when filtering or changing the fat in the fryer. Personal protective equipment such as gloves, aprons and long sleeved shirts should always be worn.
Microwave ovens are frequently used in kitchens in order to quickly heat or cook food. The hazards associated with improperly maintained microwave ovens are electrical shock or exposure to leaked microwave radiation. Depending on the amount of leaked radiation and the length of exposure, microwave radiation can damage sensitive human organs. The radiation can also damage medical equipment implanted in the human body, such as pacemakers. Microwave ovens must be kept free of food and grease spills around the doors and seals, since these residues may prevent the oven doors from closing properly and lead to leakage of microwaves. Notices should be posted near the ovens with full instructions on their safe use. All ovens should be checked regularly for proper performance and microwave leakage. They should be repaired or adjusted by trained service personnel.
Tableside cooking or serving of flaming foods can result in severe burn injuries to both the server and the customer if improper techniques are used. This type of service should be performed only by staff trained in tableside cooking and in the use of liquid or semi-solid fuel. A carbon dioxide fire extinguisher should be available in case of fire.
Walk-in refrigerators and freezers
Large walk-in refrigerators and freezers are commonly used in restaurant kitchens to store prepared food and ingredients. In addition to the temperature, the major hazard associated with walk-in refrigeration units is that kitchen personnel can be trapped in them if the door accidentally closes behind them. All walk-in cooling equipment must be equipped with interior door opening handles and with alarm switches, and all personnel who use these units should be familiar with the location of these devices.
Care should be taken when walking inside refrigeration units since condensation can cause the floors to become very slippery. To further prevent falling injuries, refrigerator floors should always be kept clear of food scraps and grease. At closing time, a check should always be made to ensure that no one has remained behind in the refrigerators.
In the restaurant kitchen almost all personnel are exposed to heat stress; however, the chef or cook is the most exposed since he or she works in close proximity to hot stoves and ovens. Dangerously high air temperatures near stoves and ovens, combined with the heavy uniforms many chefs are required to wear, can cause a number of heat-related health problems. For example, high blood pressure, skin disorders, headaches and fatigue have often been experienced by kitchen personnel. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can also occur. In extreme cases, fainting and loss of consciousness have been known to happen.
Methods to prevent heat stress include improving ventilation with oven hoods that draw away hot air, implementing work/rest schedules and drinking plenty of water while working. Kitchen personnel should also be educated in recognizing the symptoms of heat disorders.
Kitchen personnel are often exposed to temperature extremes when walking back and forth between walk-in refrigerators and hot kitchens. These sudden changes in temperature can result in respiratory problems. Some kitchen workers are required to work inside refrigerators for extended periods of time, unpacking produce, while arranging boxes of meats and cleaning the interior. These individuals should be given appropriate protective garments to wear while working in these areas.
Good ventilation systems are necessary to remove odour, grease and smoke from kitchen areas. Airborne grease can settle on kitchen equipment and cause it to become slippery. Ventilation systems include fans, air ducts and hoods. These systems should have filters removed and cleaned regularly.
Dishwashing machines can cause skin burns from handling hot dishes and can scald a worker who reaches into the machines before the dishwashing cycle is finished. Dishwashing machines should never be overloaded, since this could cause the machine to jam or to stop operating. Gloves should be used when removing hot dishes directly from the dishwasher.
In order to keep restaurant kitchens as clean and hygienic as possible, several types of cleaning products and agents are used. Ammonia solutions are often used to clean grease from oven ranges and can be particularly irritating to skin and eyes. Good ventilation should always be provided by fans or oven hoods when using ammonia products.
Other products used include drain cleaners, which are caustic and can cause skin burns and damage to eyes. To protect against splashing, rubber gloves or a face mask should be worn when using these cleaners. Soaps and detergents that are present in floor cleaning products may cause dermatitis or throat irritation, if soap dust is inhaled. Disposable respirators (face masks) may be needed by employees who are sensitive to this type of dust.
To further ensure that cleaning products do not pose a risk to employees, proper handling procedures should always be followed. Cleaning products should always be stored in clearly labelled containers, far away from where food containers are stored. Cleaning products should never be combined, particularly with chlorine bleach, which can cause a hazardous situation if mixed with other cleaning products. Material safety data sheets (MSDSs) are available in many countries for learning about the contents of cleaning products, their effects and how to handle them properly.
Trash compactors are used for compacting the large amounts of food waste generated in the kitchen into a much smaller volume. These machines should be designed not to operate with the lids open, in order to prevent catching hands or hair in them. The water supply should also be sufficient for the unit to operate safely and efficiently. Care should always be taken to ensure that glass, metal or plastics do not get into the compactor unit, since these materials will cause the machine to jam and lock out.
Pesticides are often used in restaurants to combat insects that are attracted by a food environment. Most pesticides used in restaurants and kitchens are of low hazard to humans. However, some individuals may be sensitive to such products and may develop skin irritation and other allergic reactions.
To prevent misuse of pesticides, training in the use of pesticides should be provided to janitors and other cleaning staff, and serious insect infestations should be treated by a licensed exterminator. Instructions should be printed on all pesticide containers and must be read prior to use, particularly to determine whether the pesticide can be used safely in food areas.
Food service personnel include dining room waiters, cocktail waiters, bartenders, hosts, banquet waiters and buspersons. These individuals are responsible for serving meals and beverages, showing guests to their tables and cleaning and maintaining the dining room
Slips and falls
Injuries can result from slips on wet floors or falling over boxes, carts or garbage containers left in the kitchen or dining room area. These injuries could include sprains, broken limbs, injured necks and backs and cuts from falling on sharp objects. To help prevent these accidents, employees should wear sturdy, low-heeled, rubber-soled shoes at all times. All water, grease or food spills should be wiped up immediately, and loose electrical cords and wiring should always be taped down to the floor.
All area rugs in the dining room should be of the non-slip type, with a rubber or other appropriate backing. Carpeting should be checked for frayed or raised edges that can cause food service personnel to trip and fall. Areas where the flooring changes from carpet to tile should always be clearly marked to alert food service personnel of the surface change.
The layout of the dining room is also important in preventing accidents. Tight corners, dim lighting and small exits to the kitchen can result in collisions between food service personnel. Wider corners and clearly marked, well lit exits will lead to safer traffic patterns.
Food service personnel can suffer skin burns through spilling of hot liquids such as coffee or soup, or from melted wax if tables are candle lit. To prevent spilling of hot liquids, waiters should never overreach when serving hot beverages at a table. When filling soup bowls, food service personnel should be careful to avoid splashes and try not to overfill the bowls.
When carrying hot coffee pots and urns to the dining room, servers should use a small towel to protect hands.
Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) and other musculoskeletal problems can be experienced by food service personnel who must routinely carry heavy trays, bend and reach to clear, wipe and set tables or carry boxes of restaurant supplies. Well designed workstations and work schedules, such as rotating tasks among food service personnel so that repetitiveness of tasks can be reduced, can diminish the risks.
Training in ergonomics (as well as training in identifying RSI risk factors) can also be helpful to all food service personnel in order to prevent strain injuries.
Many back and neck injuries occur because of improper lifting techniques. For many food service personnel, improper carrying of overloaded trays of dishes and glasses can cause strain on the back and increase the risk of dropping the tray and injuring someone. Training in proper loading and lifting of trays can reduce the risk of injury. For example, distributing the glasses and dishes evenly on the tray and placing one palm under the center of the tray while holding the front edge with the other hand will help create a safer dining room environment.
The restaurant dining room can be a very high stress environment because of the pressure of performing efficiently while working within tight schedules. Other causes of stress among food service personnel include working shifts, uncertain income because of dependence on gratuities and dealing with irate, difficult customers. Physical stressors such as noise and poor air quality can also be experienced in the restaurant environment. Some symptoms of stress can include headaches, racing heart, ulcers, irritability, insomnia and depression.
Methods to prevent or cope with stress include having workplace meetings that allow employees to share their views about improving work procedures, seminars on stress management techniques, improving air quality and reducing noise. These issues are discussed more fully elsewhere in this Encyclopaedia.
Bars and lounges
Bars or lounges can range in size from a small club or piano lounge to a vast dance/entertainment complex. Most of the hazards presented here are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this Encyclopaedia.
Broken glass is often a hazard in a bar environment because of the large amount of glassware used. Shards from broken glasses can accidentally be ingested by staff and customers. Glass fragments can cause cuts to fingers. There are several methods which can be used to minimize broken glass in the bar areas. Glasses should be inspected regularly for chips and cracks. Any damaged glasses should be discarded immediately. Picking up several glasses in one hand by placing fingers inside the glasses and bringing them together is hazardous since glasses carried in this manner may break.
A glass should never be used to scoop up the ice. A metal ice scoop should always be used when filling glasses with ice. If a glass does break in the ice area, the ice should be melted and all pieces of glass carefully removed. Broken glass should never be handled with bare hands.
Second-hand smoke. Bar personnel are exposed to heavy amounts of second-hand smoke due to the crowded conditions in many bars and lounges. These conditions can pose a risk since second-hand smoke has been linked to lung cancer and other respiratory problems. Every effort possible should be made to improve ventilation in bars and/or to set up non-smoking rooms in the bar areas.
Slips and falls. The rushed environment of a busy bar can contribute to slips and falls. Spilled drinks and leaking beverage containers can result in the area behind the bar being particularly hazardous for bartenders. Buspersons should regularly dry mop behind the bar throughout the evening. Outside the bar area, all spilled drinks should be cleaned up immediately. If the area is carpeted, there should be checks to ensure that there are no ragged edges where people could trip. All bar personnel should wear non-slip rubber-soled shoes.
If the bar has a dance floor, the floor should be made of wood or a material that allows gliding, but the floor should also be clearly distinct in colour from other walking surfaces.
Lifting. Bartenders are often required to lift heavy boxes or kegs of beer. Where possible, dollies should be used to transport kegs and boxes of beer. If proper lifting techniques are not used, back, neck and knee injuries can occur. All heavy lifting should be done using safe lifting techniques.
Bar waiters often carry heavy trays of drinks, which can put considerable stress on the back and neck. Proper tray carrying techniques should be shown to all bar waiters. Physical fitness is important for avoiding back injuries.
Noise. Excessive noise from live entertainment in bars and lounges can result in hearing damage among bar staff. Noise levels of 90 decibels (dB), which is the legal limit in some countries, like the United States, is a level that will lead to hearing loss in some individuals. Annual hearing testing (audiometric testing) is a requirement for all bar personnel exposed to 85 to 90 dB noise levels for 8 hours daily.
To prevent hearing damage among bar personnel, exposure to high noise levels should be limited to short periods of time, and attempts should be made to reduce the sound volume. If these methods are not feasible, then personal protective equipment such as ear plugs should be issued.
Compressed gases. Compressed gases are found in the bar areas where carbonated beverages are served. The canisters of gas must be kept in an upright position at all times or an explosion may occur.
All restaurant employees should be trained in the use of fire extinguishers and should know the location of all the fire alarms. An effective fire prevention programme includes training employees in spotting fire hazards and in proper procedures if a fire does occur. The telephone numbers of emergency-response personnel and instructions on how to summon them should be posted in a prominent area, and all employees should be familiar with an evacuation plan and escape routes. Kitchen personnel in particular should be trained in how to extinguish small fires that may occur in the kitchen.
Good housekeeping is key to fire prevention in restaurants. All areas of the restaurant should be checked for build-up of trash, grease and oil. Combustible materials such as aerosols and greasy rags should be kept in suitable covered containers and garbage cans when not in use. Ducts, filters and fans in the kitchen must be kept free of grease. This will also result in the equipment running more efficiently.
Fire exits from the restaurant must be clearly marked, and passageways to the exits must be free of boxes, trash and other debris. The use of fire detection devices and sprinkler systems should also be part of a good fire prevention programme.
Restaurant cashiers are generally responsible for operating the cash register, handling incoming cash, processing guest receipts and answering the phone. Restaurants can often be targets for hold-ups and robberies, resulting in injuries and even death for cashiers. Management should provide training to cashiers in proper cash-handling procedures and behaviour during a robbery. Other preventive measures are ensuring that the cashiers’ area is well lit and open, and furnishing the cashier area with alarms that can summon security during a robbery. The entire restaurant should be securable after closing, with all exits alarmed and labelled for emergency use only.
Cashiers in fast food restaurants and cafeterias in particular may develop repetitive motion injuries due to the design of the job and the high workload. Precautions include well-designed work stations with cash registers at comfortable heights. Flexible seats will allow cashiers to sit and relieve lower-back and leg pressures.
Departmental operations within a hotel usually consist of: reception, which oversees reservations and guest reception services; housekeeping, which cleans and stocks guest rooms and public areas; maintenance, which does heavy cleaning, setup, painting, repair and remodelling; food and beverage; office and accounting; and other miscellaneous services such as health centres, beauty salons, barber shops and gift shops.
Hazards by Department
Reception includes the following job classifications: managers, desk clerks, telephone operators, bell and door staff, security personnel, concierges, drivers and parking attendants. Key job safety and health hazards include:
Visual display units (VDUs). Desk clerks, telephone operators and other front desk personnel often use computer terminals. It has been shown that computer use under some conditions can cause various repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), such as carpal tunnel syndrome (in the wrist) as well as shoulder, neck and back problems. Employees are at special risk if workstations are poorly adjusted and require awkward body postures, or if VDU work is continuous without adequate breaks. VDU work can also produce eyestrain and other visual problems. Preventive measures include providing adjustable computer workstations, training staff on how to adjust their equipment properly and maintain correct postures, and ensuring that employees take rest and stretch breaks.
Shift work. Many guest service employees work shifts that can vary according to the level of daily hotel occupancy. Staff members may be required to work both day and evening shifts, or split shifts with random days off. Physiological and psychological health effects of shift work can include disturbed sleep patterns, stomach trouble and stress. Staff may also use drugs or medicines as sleeping aids to adjust to unusual work hours. Workers should receive training on health hazards related to shift work. Whenever possible workers should have adequate time off between rotating shifts to allow for sleep adjustments.
Special consideration should also be paid to other issues associated with swing and graveyard shifts, such as safety concerns, access to healthy meals while on duty and proper ventilation (as air conditioning is often turned off in the evening).
Poor indoor-air quality. Employees can be exposed to second-hand smoke in the lobby, bar, dining rooms and guest rooms. Where ventilation is inadequate, second-hand smoke can pose a risk of cancer and heart disease.
Lifting. Lifting hazards affect staff who load, unload and carry luggage and convention supplies. Back, neck, knee and ankle injuries can result when staff are not trained on proper lifting techniques. Luggage carts should be available. They should be well maintained and equipped with smooth-rolling wheels and safety locks.
Parking and garage hazards. Garage jobs in hotels range from valet parking, to collecting fees, to site maintenance. Employees may work part time, and turnover is often high.
Workers can be struck by vehicles, can inhale exhaust fumes (which contain carbon monoxide among other toxins), or can be exposed to chemicals in automotive products, cleaning products and paints. They can be exposed to asbestos from brake dusts. They can fall from ladders or other maintenance equipment, and can trip or fall due to fluid spills, broken pavement or snow. They can also be assaulted or robbed.
Measures to prevent auto accidents include having clearly marked traffic lanes and walkways, warnings indicating the direction of traffic flow, stop signs for crossing lanes and roped-off areas wherever maintenance work is being done.
Workers exposed to car exhaust, paint fumes and other chemicals should have access to fresh air. Training should be provided about chemical hazards and health effects.
Kerosene heaters sometimes used to warm workers in parking garages can release toxic fumes, and should be prohibited. If heaters are necessary, properly guarded and grounded electric heaters should be used.
Oil spills, water and debris should be cleaned up immediately to prevent falls. Snow should be removed and not allowed to accumulate.
This group includes housekeepers, laundry workers and supervisors. The department is usually responsible for cleaning and maintaining guest rooms, public areas and meeting and recreational facilities. It may also supply laundry services for guests. Typical safety and health hazards can include:
Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). Housekeepers are subject to strains from repeated lifting, pushing, bending, reaching and wiping when cleaning bathrooms, changing bed linen, vacuuming rugs, wiping furniture and walls and pushing supply carts from room to room. Laundry workers are also at risk for to RSI injuries due to reaching and to rapid motions from folding, sorting and loading laundry.
Housekeeping carts help transport supplies and equipment, but carts need to be well maintained, with smooth-rolling wheels, and designed to carry heavy loads without tipping over. Carts also need to be relatively light and easy to manoeuvre, with sufficient clearance above the cart so housekeepers can see where they are going.
Training in both ergonomics and proper lifting should be available for housekeepers and laundry workers. Training should include RSI risk factors and methods for reducing them.
Chemical products. Housekeepers and maids use chemical cleaning products for sinks, tubs, toilets, floors and mirrors. Some products can cause dermatitis, respiratory distress and other problems. Some general cleaning agents containing ammonia, detergents and solvents can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Certain solvent-based products can damage the kidneys and reproductive organs. Disinfectants often contain phenol compounds, which can cause irritation and are suspected to cause cancer.
Preventive measures include supplying protective gloves and substituting with less hazardous products. Proper ventilation should be provided through open windows, mechanical air vents or fans. Chemical storage areas should be well maintained and away from break and eating areas.
Training should be provided about chemical hazards and health effects. It should be conducted in a way staff can understand. To be effective, some training procedures may need translation into workers’ first languages.
Trips and falls. Housekeepers are required to move quickly. Speed can result in slipping on wet floors, falling from tubs and other surfaces when cleaning, and tripping over cords, sheets and bed covers and debris. Laundry staff may slip on wet floors.
Training should be offered emphasizing safety measures to prevent falls and work methods that reduce the need to rush.
Cuts. Cuts from glass, discarded razor blades and debris can be reduced by using liners in wastebaskets and by installing razor blade disposal devices in bathrooms. Workers should be trained in proper waste-handling techniques.
Needlesticks. Used hypodermic needles left by guests in wastebaskets, linens or rooms put hotel staff at risk of getting infectious diseases from accidental punctures. Housekeeping and laundry personnel are the most likely to encounter a discarded needle. Staff should be instructed on how to report and dispose of needles. Staff should have access to approved types of needle receptacle boxes. Management should also have effective medical and counselling procedures to assist staff who have been stuck by a discarded needle.
Heat stress. Hotel laundry workers wash, iron, fold and deliver linen. Heat from machinery, combined with poor ventilation, can result in an oppressive work environment and cause heat stress. Symptoms may include headache, nausea, irritability, fatigue, fainting and accelerated pulse. Eventually these can lead to convulsions and more serious problems if early symptoms are not treated.
Heat stress can be prevented by installing air conditioning, insulating sources of heat, ventilating hot areas with hoods that draw hot air away, taking frequent short breaks in cool areas, drinking plenty of water and wearing loose-fitting clothes. If the work area is only moderately hot (below 35°C), fans may be useful.
Maintenance staff do heavy cleaning, set-up, painting, repair, remodelling and grounds work. Hazards include:
Chemical products. Maintenance staff may use toxic cleaning products to strip and polish floors as well as to clean carpets, walls, furniture, brass fixtures and marble. Certain products can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat; can affect the nervous system; and can damage the kidneys, lungs, liver and reproductive system.
Solvents may be present in painting and remodelling materials. Fast-drying paints are used to enable rooms and public areas to be available quickly, but these paints contain high solvent concentrations. Glues used in laying carpet and flooring and in other remodelling jobs may also contain toxic solvents. Solvents can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Some may damage the nervous system, kidneys, lungs, liver and reproductive organs. Certain solvents are known to cause cancer.
Pesticides and herbicides may be applied in kitchens, dining rooms, public areas, locker rooms and outside the hotel in gardens and driveways. Some of these chemicals can cause respiratory problems; can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat; and can damage the nervous system, kidneys, liver and other organs.
Preventive measures include training about chemicals, proper ventilation and proper use of personal protective equipment. If respirators are required, staff should be trained on how to select the proper respirator and cartridge, and how to fit test, use and maintain the equipment. In addition, employees should be given a medical exam to ensure that they are physically fit to work wearing a respirator. Wherever possible, less toxic chemicals should be used.
Asbestos. Asbestos is present in many hotels. Used for years as an insulator and fire retardant, it is found around pipes and in ceiling materials and floor coverings. This highly toxic substance can cause asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma (another form of cancer).
Asbestos is most hazardous when it ages or is damaged. It may begin to break up, creating dust. Hotels should regularly inspect areas where asbestos-containing materials are present to ensure that the asbestos is in good condition.
Extreme caution must be used to protect workers and guests when asbestos dust is present (through ageing or damage or during asbestos abatement jobs). Hotel workers and guests must be kept away from the area, warning signs must be posted and only skilled and licensed personnel should be hired to abate the hazard. The area should be inspected by qualified professionals when work in completed. In new construction or renovation, substitute products should be used in lieu of asbestos.
Trips and falls. Maintenance staff may fall when using ladders and hoists to reach high places such as ceilings, chandeliers, light fixtures, walls and balconies. Training should be provided.
Food and beverage
These staff members include kitchen workers, dishwashers, restaurant servers, room service personnel, hosts and bartenders. Among the hazards are:
Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). RSIs can occur when room service personnel or restaurant servers deliver food. Trays can be heavy and the server may have to walk long distances. To reduce the risk of injury, room service carts can be used to deliver orders. Carts should be easy to manoeuvre and well maintained. If carts are equipped with heating boxes, the staff should be trained on their proper use.
Trips and falls. Floor surfaces in the kitchen, as well as in all areas to which serving personnel must go, should be kept clean and dry to prevent falls. Spills should be cleaned up immediately. See also the article “Restaurants” in this chapter.
Swimming pools and fitness centres. Many hotels provide swimming facilities or fitness centres for guests. Often showers, saunas, whirlpools, weight rooms and locker rooms are available.
Chemicals used to clean and disinfect showers and locker rooms can cause skin and respiratory irritation. In addition, employees who maintain swimming pools may handle solid or gaseous chlorine. Chlorine leaks can cause burns and severe respiratory problems. If mishandled, it can explode. Employees should be trained on how to handle all these chemicals properly.
Workers who maintain pool and fitness facilities are exposed to injuries from slips and falls. Nonskid, well-maintained and well-drained walking surfaces are important. Water puddles should be wiped up immediately.
Gift shops. Hotels often provide gift and convenience shops for guests. Employees are subject to falls, strains and cuts associated with unpacking and stocking merchandise. They should be trained on proper lifting techniques and should have hand carts to aid in transporting merchandise. Aisles should be kept clear to avoid accidents.
Beauty salons and barber shops. Barbers and cosmetologists risk injuries including skin irritation from hair chemicals, burns from hot towels and curling irons, and cuts and punctures from scissors and razors.
Special hazards include a risk of respiratory problems and possibly even cancer from repeated exposure to certain chemicals such as some hair dye ingredients. There is also a risk of RSIs due to continual use of the hands in awkward postures. Employees should be trained to recognize chemical and ergonomic hazards, and to work in a way that minimizes the risk. They should be supplied with proper gloves and aprons when working with dyes, bleaches, permanent-wave solutions and other chemical products. Shop areas should be properly ventilated to provide fresh air and remove fumes, especially in areas where employees are mixing solutions. Scissors and razors should be properly maintained for ease in cutting, as discussed elsewhere in this Encyclopaedia.
Sexual harassment. Housekeepers and other hotel employees may be exposed to sexual advances from guests or others. Employees should be trained about sexual harassment issues.
Management should have a clear policy on how to report and respond to such incidents.
Fires and other emergencies. Emergencies and disasters can result in loss of life and injuries to both guests and staff. Hotels should have clear emergency response plans, including designated evacuation routes, emergency procedures, an emergency communication system and methods for clearing guests out of the hotel quickly. Certain managers as well as the switchboard operators should have clear instructions on how to coordinate emergency communication with guests and staff.
Staff training and joint labor-management safety meetings are vital components of an effective emergency prevention and response programme. Training sessions and meetings should include translation for staff who need it. Training should be frequent since there is high turnover among hotel workers. Periodic emergency drills should be scheduled, incorporating “walk-throughs” of evacuation routes, staff roles and other emergency procedures.
There should also be a fire prevention programme, including regular inspections. Management and staff members should ensure that exits are not blocked, flammable materials are properly stored, kitchen hoods are regularly cleaned and electrical equipment is well maintained (without frayed wires). Fire retardant materials should be used in interior decorating projects, and there should be screens around fireplaces. Ashtrays should be properly emptied, and candles should be used only in semi-enclosed containers.
Hotel accommodations as well as all facilities attached to the hotel, such as beauty shops, restaurants and gift shops, should be in compliance with all fire codes. Guest rooms and public areas should be equipped with smoke detectors and water sprinklers. Fire extinguishers should be available throughout the hotel. Exits should be well marked and illuminated. Back-up generators should be available to provide emergency lighting and other services.
Evacuation instructions should be posted in each guest room. Many hotels now provide in-room videos with information on fire safety. Guests who are hearing impaired should have rooms equipped with alarms using bright lights to alert them to an emergency. Visually impaired guests should receive emergency procedure information in Braille.
There should be a central alarm system which can display the exact location of a suspected fire. It should also automatically communicate to local emergency services, and broadcast messages over the public address system for guests and staff.
Hotels and restaurants constitute a large, diversified, labour-intensive service industry made up predominantly of small enterprises. While there are a number of giant corporations, some of which attempt to standardize procedures and working rules, their hotels and restaurants are usually operated individually, often on a franchise rather than a directly owned basis. Frequently, the eating and drinking establishments in hotels are leased to franchise operators.
There is a high degree of failure among the enterprises in this industry, with many being very close to the edge of financial insolvency for some time before closing their doors. This often dictates economies in staffing, in the purchase and maintenance of equipment and in the provision of necessary supplies. It also often forces neglect of employee training programmes and a reluctance to spend scarce resources on measures to promote and protect employee safety and health.
The majority of the jobs are unskilled and provide low or minimal wages (in some of the jobs, these may be supplemented by gratuities that depend on the largesse of the patrons). Consequently, they attract only workers with minimal education and experience, and because minimal language and literacy skills are required, many of the jobs are filled by immigrants and ethnic minorities. Many are entry-level positions with little or no opportunities for advancement. Shift work is required in hotels because they operate around the clock; in restaurants, the flurries of activity at meal times are often covered by part-time workers. Because their patronage is seasonal, many establishments curtail their operations or shut down entirely during the off-season, and, as a result, there may be little or no job security. The end result of all of this is a high rate of turnover in the workforce.
Because of the periods of intense activity and the necessity of pleasing the patrons on whose gratuities their livelihoods often depend, many of the workers in this industry are subject to high levels of job stress. They must often comply with seemingly unreasonable or even impossible requests and may be subjected to abusive behaviour on the part of supervisors as well as customers. Many of the jobs, particularly those in kitchens and laundries, must be carried out in stressful environments featuring high heat and humidity, poor ventilation, poor lighting and noise (Ulfvarson, Janbell and Rosen 1976).
Hotels and restaurants rank high on the lists of workplaces with the greatest incidence of occupational violent crime. According to one survey, over 50% of such incidents involving hotel and restaurant workers resulted in death (Hales et al. 1988). These workers are exposed to many of the risk factors for workplace homicide: exchange of money with the public, working alone or in small numbers, working late night or early morning hours and guarding valuable property or possessions (Warshaw and Messite 1996).
Types of Injuries and Diseases
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, food and beverage preparation and housekeeping departments accounted for 76% of all work injuries and accidents in hotels (US Bureau of Labor Statistics 1967), while a Danish survey found that these were predominantly skin and musculoskeletal problems (Direktoratet for Arbejdstilsynet 1993). Most of the skin problems may be traced to exposure to soap and hot water, to the chemicals in detergents and other cleaning/polishing materials and, in some instances, to pesticides. Except for the special problems noted below, the majority of musculoskeletal injuries result from slips and falls and from lifting and handling heavy and/or bulky objects.
Sprains, strains and repetitive motion injuries
Back injuries and other sprains and strains commonly occur among doormen, porters and bellmen lifting and carrying luggage (a particular problem when large tour groups arrive and depart); kitchen workers and others receiving and storing bulk supplies; and housekeeping workers lifting mattresses, making beds and handling bundles of laundry. A unique type of injury is carpal tunnel syndrome among food service workers who use scoops to prepare servings of hard ice cream and other frozen desserts.
Cuts and lacerations
Cuts and lacerations are common among restaurant workers and dishwashers who deal with broken glass and crockery, and who handle or clean sharp knives and slicing machines. They are also common among chambermaids who encounter broken glasses and discarded razor blades in cleaning out waste baskets; they may be protected by lining the baskets with plastic bags which can be removed en masse.
Burns and scalds
Burns and scalds are common among chefs, dishwashers and other kitchen workers and laundry workers. Grease burns occur from splatters during cooking or as food is dropped into deep-fat fryers, when hot grease is added, filtered or removed, and when grills and fryers are cleaned while hot. Many result when workers slip on wet or slippery floors and fall on or against hot grills and open flames. A unique type of burn occurs in restaurants where flaming desserts, entrees and drinks are served (Achauer, Bartlett and Allyn 1982).
Hotel and restaurant establishments share with other small enterprises a propensity for improper storage, handling and disposal of industrial chemicals. All too frequently cleaning supplies, disinfectants, pesticides and other “household” poisons are stored in unlabelled containers, are placed above open food containers or food preparation areas or, when used in spray form, are excessively inhaled.
The fast food industry
The fast food industry, one of the most rapidly growing in the United States and becoming increasingly popular in other countries, is one of the largest employers of young people. Lacerations and burns are common hazards in these establishments. It has also been noted that the home delivery of pizzas and other prepared food is often extremely hazardous because of policies which encourage reckless driving on bicycles as well as in motor vehicles (Landrigan et al. 1992).
Standardized work processes, adequate training and proper supervision are key elements in the prevention of work-related injuries and illnesses among workers in the hotel and restaurant industry. It is essential that, because of their generally low educational levels and language difficulties, the educational materials and training exercises be readily understood (they may have to be conducted in several languages). Also, because of the high turnover, training must be repeated at frequent intervals. The training exercises should be supplemented by frequent inspections to assure that the basic principles of good housekeeping and elimination of accident hazards are observed.
In addition to regular inspections to verify that firefighting equipment (e.g., smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers and hoses and emergency lighting equipment) is in good working order and that emergency exits are clearly marked and not blocked, frequent drills are necessary to train the workers in how to prevent themselves and the patrons from being trapped and overcome in the event of a fire or an explosion. It is desirable to hold at least some of these drills in concert with the community fire, rescue and police organizations.
Apropriately designed and diligently practised preventive measures will do much to lower the frequency of occupational injuries and illnesses among hotel and restaurant workers. Language barriers and relatively low educational levels often represent formidable challenges to the effectiveness of training and indoctrination programmes, while the high rate of turnover dictates the frequent repetition of these programmes. It is important to remember that the health and safety of the workers in this industry is an essential element in the enjoyment and satisfaction of the patrons, upon whose good will the success - and even the survival - of the enterprise depends.