Taking Care: Creating a Culture of Workplace Safety in the Hospitality Industry

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The hospitality industry has its fair share of visitors, with guests and employees in the building 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Compared to other sectors, hospitality employees can be more vulnerable than other team members working in different industries. In hotels, for instance, housekeepers primarily work alone, putting them at risk for sexual harassment and other acts of aggression. The number of transient guests only exacerbates this problem, as people feel less accountable for their actions when they are away from home.

These circumstances make workplace safety necessary for staff and management in all hospitality venues. Cultivating a culture of workplace safety is vital for employees and critical for proper business operations. There are simple ways to establish an organizational process with staff and keep clients’ best interests in mind.

Making the Financial Case

Employers in the United States pay for direct workers’ compensation costs. That doesn’t include the premiums they are already paying based on the relative risks associated with their industry.

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Workers’ compensation costs pay a lot per week in the United States, which doesn’t include the premiums they are already paying based on the relative risks associated with the industry. Improving safety training and record-keeping is a great way to reduce workers’ compensation costs. Fewer claims mean lower direct and indirect costs and a history of reducing risk goes a long way toward lowering premiums. Given today’s labor shortage, it’s more important than ever to reduce the cost of employee turnover as well.

Workplace Safety in the Hospitality Industry

Enforcing workplace safety in the hospitality industry can span across various departments within an organization. A shared culture within the company will ensure that all employees and management are aware of and know precisely what workplace safety entails. Any deviation can cause disruptions in emergency processes, questionable practices, and errors in judgment in times of crisis.

Proper safety culture will keep staff members knowledgeable about the company’s approach to a safe working environment, including how the organization perceives risk, navigates responses to risky situations, and maintains an ethical culture of workplace safety.

To create an influential workplace safety culture, organizations should recognize the following steps:

Develop and Enforce Proper Safety Values

Even for organizations with existing safety procedures, continuous development is vital to keep staff and clients safe. In addition, the hospitality industry is dynamic, creating a need for periodic assessments and advancements to current workplace safety strategies. Organizations that commit time and effort to develop and enforce proper safety values keep their staff and customers safe while being dedicated to upholding a safe working environment. In addition, this stance on safety values will protect employees and attract new clients.

Execute Safety Leadership Strategies

Proper execution of safety leadership strategies is fundamental to continuing the culture and employees’ perception of the organization’s commitment. All upper-level management staff should follow identical workplace safety procedures to minimize deviations between departments, causing gaps or safety concerns. Without keen execution by supervisors and management, staff members will not consider the safety culture in place for their benefit. As a result, they may become confused about various processes and question their responsibilities during a crisis.

Attitudes Toward Organizational Safety

When employees do not feel safe or valued, their duties can suffer, trickling down to the clients and jeopardizing the safety of everyone on property. For a proper workplace safety culture to be effective, staff members should be involved and active throughout the process. Participation should be encouraged, and open dialogue between employees and management is critical for positive attitudes regarding organizational safety procedures. With clear responsibilities for all staff members, there is less chance of miscommunication regarding safety in the workplace. For maximum impact, it is essential that the leadership team models, implements, and oversees creating a culture of safety. If it’s not top down, it’s less likely to be successful.

Overall Safety Performance

Systematic data collection from an organization’s overall safety performance is essential for regular checkups. In addition, periodic reporting will help bring to light any gaps in safety procedures or inefficient processes that require reconstruction. Alternatively, positive safety performance reporting can help reinforce the organization’s workplace safety culture for all employees. Celebrating successes regularly can maintain a positive attitude among the staff members and management on the company’s commitment to providing a safe work environment.

Effectively Creating a Workplace Safety Culture

Not every organization in the hospitality industry will use each strategy and tool. However, exploring what works for a certain workplace could provide a more positive environment when executing a workplace safety culture plan.

Proper Training and Education

Providing the proper training and education for staff members to do their jobs as well as having workplace safety strategies reinforces an organization’s commitment to their employees’ health and wellbeing. Staff members who use the correct procedures for job tasks and know the proper processes during an emergency are less likely to be at risk while at work or pose a threat to others.

This must be done regularly to be effective. One tip is to relate the training to something that has happened recently in society to assuage employees’ concerns and leverage it as an opportunity to increase confidence and memory building if the unthinkable occurs at their location.

A rise in incivility among customers can make it even more important to conduct conflict resolution training. While not guaranteed to work, it can help improve the customer experience and make workers feel empowered, safe, and reassured. Ideally, all training programs should be available in multiple languages.

Effective Equipment and Resources

Safe and effective workplace equipment can minimize the chances of accidents or harm to employees or clients during business operations. Routine equipment checks and replacements can keep staff and customers safe while completing day-to-day tasks without incidents.

Staff members with access to emergency resources—such as hotel panic buttons and helpful crisis resources—can prepare employees for dangerous circumstances. Training resources can help prepare management to execute workplace safety procedures calmly for the benefit of all staff and clients on-site.

Providing the proper tools to employees can reinforce responsibility and accountability within the organization. This way, employees will know who to go to for help in emergencies and the proper chain of command when there is a crisis.

Knowledge of these systems has been proven to reduce the number of incidents that occur and is a major advantage when recruiting and retaining employees. A worker that feels safe and cared for is more likely to sign on and stay, especially in the current marketplace.

Minimize Risks

Occupational hazards in the hospitality industry are prevalent. Unfortunately, regardless of any safety measures put in place, accidents will continue to happen. Therefore, the primary goal for an organization is to minimize the potential risk and mitigate any possible danger to employees and customers.

According to a study published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, OSHA-reported injury within the hotel industry details several common injuries within these sectors:

  • Hotel housekeepers
  • Kitchen workers
  • Stewards
  • Banquet servers

Conducting periodic risk assessments to address potential hazards is vital in maintaining workplace safety. In addition, prevention is essential to help mitigate injuries such as ergonomic strain, chemical exposure, biological hazards, mental health risks, and long work hours.

Creating and executing a culture of workplace safety is an ongoing task. The hospitality industry is dynamic, with employees’ and clients’ needs evolving as business operations progress. However, it is not an impossible undertaking.

Staff members should have the proper training and resources available to ensure a safe workplace, which will create a safe and positive environment for customers. With everyone in the organization working together for a common goal, enforcing a safety culture can be effective at minimizing any risks to staff and clients.

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Yasmine Mustafa is the co-founder and CEO of ROAR for Good, a technology company dedicated to cultivating safer workplaces.