Accommodations/food service State laws

Cal/OSHA unanimously approves standard to protect hotel housekeepers

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Oakland, CA — Hospitality workers are praising the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board for unanimously approving a standard designed to protect housekeepers from workplace hazards.

Passed by a 5-0 vote on Jan. 18, the standard seeks to make employers more accountable for written injury prevention programs, worker training, hazard evaluations, provision of appropriate tools and personal protective equipment, incident investigation, hazard correction, and recordkeeping.

The approval rewards a multiyear lobbying effort by hospitality workers union UNITE HERE, which represents 270,000 members of the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation and airport industries in the United States and Canada.

Hospitality housekeepers routinely lift 100-pound mattresses and push heavy carts and vacuums, according the union. Along with constant twisting, turning and bending, these activities “can lead housekeepers to suffer strain, sprain and tear injuries that can require physical therapy or even lead to permanent disability.”

“Hotel housekeepers are the invisible backbone of the hospitality industry,” Pamela Vossenas, director of worker safety and health for UNITE HERE, said in a Jan. 19 press release.

“Overwhelmingly women, immigrants and people of color, housekeepers face high rates of workplace injury. The state of California has recognized the seriousness of the dangers housekeepers face and took an important step to protect these workers.”

The standard moves to the state’s Office of Administrative Law, which is tasked with ensuring it complies with California’s Administrative Procedures Act. OAL meets quarterly, meaning the soonest the standard would go into effect is April.

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