Personal safety back-up for lone hotel workers

Keeping lone workers safe is an important responsibility for employers. Employers of workers who clean hotel rooms must plan for those workers’ safety. 

Photo credit: Susan Main

Notice how many hotel and resort ads there are in summer?

They’re in the mailbox   through the door and email inbox   and it makes me think about people who work there.

See Working Alone: A Handbook for Small Business, with links to numerous online resources for hotel employers – and helpful for anyone who employs lone workers. It made me think more about the idea of going into a hotel room alone to clean it, not sure if anyone is inside.

I queried friends who had cleaned hotel rooms in the past and most had never had problems with anyone in a room. One had a naked man answer a door, but he shut it again quickly when she screamed. She told her manager, then went back to clean it later.

“I never felt in danger,” she said, recalling the experience years later. “You always had a phone in the room or other staff close by. Mostly, people would be gone from their rooms.”

How close is close enough?

In B.C., employers of lone workers must consider the following conditions “in order to determine whether or not assistance is readily available,” according to the OHS Guidelines on Working alone or in isolation:

  • Presence of others: Are other people in the vicinity?
  • Awareness:Will other persons capable of providing assistance be aware of the worker’s need?
  • Willingness: Is it reasonable to expect those other persons will provide assistance?
  • Timeliness: Will assistance be provided within a reasonable period of time?

Backing up personal safety

Lone workers need the support described above – makes me concerned about this anecdotal report (which I haven’t followed up) from a friend of a hotel worker, via Facebook.

“My friend works overnights at a downtown [Vancouver] hotel, usually alone or with only one other person in the whole building. It sounds like a nuthouse, especially after the bars let out. I don’t know how she does it!”

I hope she does it with great safety – supported by her employer, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Things can get out of hand with guests; last summer I met the owner of a small inn who had his arm broken in an altercation with an intoxicated guest. I expect however, that these incidents are very rare, and hopefully it’s smooth sailing, with well-behaved guests who appreciate their temporary home. But it’s still important to have a plan.

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