Staff Safety Risk Assessment: Assessing your Business for a Panic Button
By Robb Monkman , Founder and CEO, of React Mobile Inc.
The reality is that for far too long, the safety of hotel employees has been placed on the back burner. A passing consideration to follow the foremost priority: the guest experience. Yet, over time, the outcry of hospitality staff who have suffered injuries, abuse, emergencies, or harassment while performing their duties has been steadily on the rise. It has become obvious that these reported incidents are only the tip of the iceberg, and that hotels have a much larger problem on their hands, one which can only be mitigated with industry-wide action.
As legislative measures have rolled out over the past year, hotels have been swift in their response to reform their safety protocol and implement the use of staff safety technology (ESDs). After all, employers have a legal and moral obligation to invest in the safety of their staff, and now the resources and tools required to accomplish positive change are readily available and, in many cases, mandated. As staff safety continues to solidify its role within a hotel's operations strategy, we aim to provide critical insight to all properties that hope to create and maintain a safe and secure workplace for their staff.
The assessment steps outlined below should not be treated as a singular occurrence, but rather, a regular exercise that is revisited on a semi-annual basis.
- Identify the risks
- Assess existing measures
- Find solutions and take action
1. Identify the Risks
Hotel employees are especially vulnerable to on-site incidents due to the remote nature of their work. Lone workers are considered employees who work by themselves indoors, outdoors, while driving or in remote locations and are among the most vulnerable members of your team.
In the case of hotels, cleaning and maintenance staff are often assigned to rooms without the company of another staff member or supervisor. Not only is the work physically demanding in nature which can result in accidental injury, but it places staff members in a potentially high-risk environment with guests behind the closed door of a guest room.
These risks may include:
- Threatening behavior (verbal or physical) from hotel guests within the privacy of their guest room
- Physical attacks from hotel guests within the privacy of their guest room
- Unsolicited sexual harassment (verbal or physical) from hotel guests within the privacy of their guest room
- Physical injury as a result of physical labor, in an area where help is not readily available
- Medical emergencies
In fact, in an online survey of hospitality industry workers conducted by the trade union, Unite the Union, 89% of respondents said they had experienced one or more incidences of sexual harassment at work. Not only that, but as much as 90% of women and 70% of men in service jobs report experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace — higher than any other industry.
It's also important to recognize that the prevalence of workplace safety breaches across hotel properties does not affect only the employee, but also the employer. For decades, the hospitality industry has suffered from uncharacteristically high staff turnover rates, which represent a significant cost to hoteliers as they frequently hire and train new staff. It's so serious, in fact, that there's an annualized employee turnover rate of 73.8% in the hotel industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In respect to staff safety concerns, an incident which causes a hotel employee to abandon their job often results in:
- Staff compensation
- Legal fees and damages
- Increased insurance premiums
- Negative impact on employee morale
- Time/resources spent investigating and reporting incidents
- Time/resources spent on hiring/training new staff
Failure to proactively address and prioritize hotel staff safety impacts a hotel's bottom line and, in some instances, can result in exorbitant fines or even jail time. Simply stated, ignoring an industry-wide call to action will cost you. Hoteliers, ask yourself, are you doing everything in your power to keep your staff safe?
If not, it's time to change that.
2. Assess Existing Measures
The trajectory of hotel staff safety cannot change in the long-term if changes are only implemented on a short-term basis. To set the stage for long term success, you need to take a look at your current practices and environments to audit what you are currently doing to lower your risks and improve safety.
Start the Conversation with Staff
Hoteliers, now is the time to have a conversation with your staff. Beyond the baseline requirements of legislation and safety standards, it's important to address hotel staff directly, understand their experiences, and, more importantly, make them a part of the process as you implement new, preventative processes.
- When was the last time you surveyed your employees?
- Do you invite and encourage continued feedback from your staff?
- Have you created a safe space/process for employees to report safety breaches and incidents without fear of dismissal or professional consequences?
When surveying your staff, we suggest asking the following questions:
- Do staff members feel safe at work?
- What is the likelihood of an incident occurring based on your geographic location?
- How frequently have incidents occurred in the past?
- What is the potential severity of an incident?
- What was the severity of incidents that occurred in the past?
Audit Your Current Processes
Take a look at your current practices and environments to audit what you are currently doing to lower your risks and improve safety. Use this questionnaire to help you identify hazards on your property.
- Does each staff member have an easy way to get help when needed?
- Do you have location tracking information or each staff member at all times in case of an emergency?
- Do you provide staff with resources, training, and information related to their safety? If so, when was the last time those resources were updated?
- Have you established a set of best practices in the event of a staff emergency?
- Have you reviewed any/all legislative guidelines that impact your hotel?
- Are buildings connected to other unsecured buildings?
- Are there empty rooms that should be locked?
- Do stairwell doors, supply room doors, etc. automatically lock behind you?
- Can employees at the front desk clearly see visitors?
- Are staff washrooms used by the public?
- Can guests easily gain access to employee-only areas?
- Can you see if someone is in the elevator before entering?
- Do staff count cash at the end of the shift?
- Are security codes and passwords changed when employees are no longer with the property?
3. Find Solutions and Take Action to Invest in Staff Safety
Finding solutions requires teamwork and problem-solving skills. Implementing processes and technology are proactive ways of minimizing risks. Here are the most important steps your hotel can take to mitigate the risks for everyone.
- Update resources, training, and information available to staff that helps to enforce their safety
- Establish a set of best practices in the case of a staff emergency/injury and ensure all employees are informed of (and ready to comply with) said practices
- Establish a designated person (or team) who will continue to oversee and enforce the safety of hotel staff (training, technology implementation, reporting, etc.)
- Install security cameras, signage, and motion movement detectors
- Post signs that indicate onsite security measures
- Use coded ID cards or keys to control access to the building or certain areas within the building
- Make sure lighting is adequate
- Remove anything that may be used as a weapon, such as heavy and sharp objects
- Implement advanced employee safety devices (ESDs) also known as panic buttons
which can be easily carried by staff and utilized in the event of an emergency
Hotels that take advantage of next-gen panic buttons are taking an integral step to protect their brand, their business, and their people. Before selecting a panic button platform, we suggest asking the following questions:
- Does the platform leverage Beacon and Bluetooth technology to ensure location accuracy, even off property, and within multi-story buildings?
- Is it easy to use and implement?
- Is it small and discreet?
- Does it work with and without a mobile device?
- Is it cloud-based and easily integrated with existing hotel systems?
- How long will the installation process take?
- Does the platform offer management controls and enhanced reporting?
- Are their various options that can be customized to my property and budget?
- Does the vendor have an established portfolio of hotel properties, along with positive testimonials?
- Will the vendor continue to work with your property to provide support, maintenance, and training where necessary?
- Does the vendor welcome user feedback to continuously improve the platform?
Staff safety is not a destination, it's a path — one which requires continued effort and care from hoteliers, paired with the support provided by staff safety technology vendors.
Leading hoteliers understand, it is their duty to provide a safe environment and establish safe working procedures that help to mitigate or eliminate any/all potential hazards. With the help of this assessment and industry guidelines for continued safety reform, hoteliers will play a pivotal role in forging the path to a safer future for their staff.
Robb MonkmanMore from Robb Monkman
About React Mobile
Founded in 2013, React Mobile is a global leader in providing panic button solutions for hotels. Our best in class hospitality safety platform helps hotels keep their employees safe. The React Mobile system is an open and flexible platform that allows management to deploy response resources to the exact location of an emergency within seconds of an alert, getting help to where it's needed anywhere on or off property. In an emergency quick response times are essential and React Mobile gives you the tools to react fast. For more information, visit www.reactmobile.com.