The study, based on 55,000 worker-years of observation of 2,865 injuries at 50 unionized hotel properties, is the first to analyze the difference in injury rates by both sex and race/ethnicity among hotel workers. Among its findings, the study indicates that women hotel workers were 1.5 times more likely to be injured than men, Hispanic women had almost double the risk of injury of their white female counterparts, and Hispanic and Asian males about 1.5 times more likely to be injured than white males.
"These alarming results raise many questions as to why injury rates are so high for women, and Hispanic and Asian workers in the hotel sector," states Dr. Susan Buchanan of the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and lead author of the article.
The report also shows that among the different job classifications in hotels, housekeepers face the highest rate of injury. "The excess risk among women probably reflects the fact that so many of them work in the very demanding job of room cleaner," notes Dr. Laura Punnett, a co-author from University of Massachusetts Lowell. "The excess risk among Hispanic housekeepers compared to other housekeepers is more difficult to explain, and requires further study."
Celia Alvarez knows this pain firsthand. She worked at the non-union Hyatt Regency in Long Beach, California for 19 years as a housekeeper before becoming permanently injured in her lower back and shoulder. "Cleaning between 25 to 30 rooms a day demands working fast and this is how I hurt my body. There isn’t time to take care of our bodies. I can no longer work as a housekeeper. I have pain every day."
The study also indicates that injury rates vary by employer. Given this variation, University of California San Francisco researcher and study co-author Dr. Niklas Krause says, "The observed substantial differences between hotel companies and different worker groups point to a high potential for prevention of these injuries. It is time, especially for those companies with the worst rates, to make a concerted effort to halt this disparate occurrence of work-related pain and suffering."
Though the study itself did not identify the companies involved, Pamela Vossenas, Unite Here Health and Safety Specialist, announced today that, "The top five US hotel companies included are: Hilton (Company 1), Hyatt (Company 2), Intercontinental (Company 3), Marriott (Company 4) and Starwood (Company 5)."
In addition to researchers from the universities named above, the study includes co-authors from Hunter College School of Health Sciences and Unite Here, the union of hotel workers in North America.
"This study is stunning evidence of the unequal impact of injuries in the hotel industry, and it calls into question whether discriminatory workplace practices play a role," says John Wilhelm, President of Unite Here. "Hyatt, with the highest reported injury rate for housekeepers, needs to make changes immediately that will keep housekeepers safe and pain-free at work."