Employment in the housekeeping profession is physically demanding and potentially risky to one’s health. Housekeepers and cleaning staff encounter a variety of chemicals and physical hazards on the job and many of these workers don’t have access to workers’ compensation benefits. Whether cleaning as a side gig or with a professional company, workers need the proper equipment and training to keep themselves safe on the job.
Housekeepers and cleaners may work in residential homes, hotels and motels, or in office and industrial buildings. They typically have a physically heavy workload with a variety of tasks, including pushing carts, vacuuming, moving furniture, scrubbing bathrooms and kitchens, laundry, and changing linens. Many housekeeping staff also work under tight time constraints, under pressure of turning over rooms quickly.
How dangerous is housekeeping work?
Hotel workers appear to suffer the most (or their statistics are easier to track). UniteHere reports that these employees have a 40 percent higher injury rate than all service sector workers, and within that slice, housekeepers have the highest injury rate. They also note that in a survey of American and Canadian housekeepers, over 90 percent report suffering work-related pain that interferes with their daily activities and requires medical intervention.
UniteHere also points out that a housekeeper’s job has become more difficult over the past few years:
In most hotels, a housekeeper must clean 14 or more rooms per day. To meet this quota, she often skips breaks and works off the clock. It also is increasingly common for her to have luxury beds with heavier mattresses and linens, triple-sheeting, duvets, and extra pillows than in years past. Other upgrades, like large mirrors, wide-screen TVs, floor-to-ceiling glass showers, can make a housekeeper’s job of cleaning a room even more difficult and time-consuming.
All of this physical labor can add up to serious injuries and medical conditions.
Common housekeeper dangers and injuries
Hazards experienced by housekeepers include:
- Slip and fall accidents from wet or cluttered surfaces
- Chemical exposure from cleaning agents
- Infectious disease from waste disposal
- Knee injuries
- Soft tissue injuries from repetitive movements
- Working in small spaces
- Overexertion injuries
- Muscle and back injuries from heavy lifting
- Workplace violence or harassment
- Hotel and motel fires
Reducing and preventing housekeeping injuries
Employers, whether of a gig company or chain of hotels, can take some steps to keep their workers safe on the job. Staff should have access to ergonomically proper equipment, like long-handled vacuums, mops, and dusters to reduce bending and stretching. Workers should also work together when lifting heavy objects like mattresses and furniture. To avoid respiratory illnesses from chemical exposure, housekeeping staff should be outfitted with gloves, masks/respirators, and eye protection. Non-slip footwear can also cut down on slip and fall accidents.
Other, more specific tips – that you can even incorporate into your cleaning routine at home – include:
- Use proper lifting techniques; lift with the legs, bend at the knees, back straight.
- Don’t overfill or overload carts or carriers with supplies. Make a few trips if necessary to avoid overexertion.
- Don’t stand on bathtub sides or toilets while cleaning. Use long-handled tools or step stools instead to get to higher spots.
Housekeepers and cleaners also need proper breaks to reduce physical and mental fatigue, which can avoid accidents and injuries.
What if I’m a housekeeper injured on the job?
If you do experience an accident or develop a condition as a result of working in housekeeping, take the following steps to protect your right to compensation:
- Report your injury to your employer or company as soon as possible.
- If possible, take photos of your injury as well as the scene and premises of the accident.
- Preserve any evidence (for example, if a broken step stool caused your injury, do not throw it away or attempt to repair it).
- Get medical attention for your injury and save all records, documentation, and receipts. You will need these for financial reimbursement.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and precisely. Deviating from your medical regimen may result in the insurance company rejecting your claim.
- Take notes about the accident and your injuries while your memory is fresh – what led up to it, what happened, and what happened right after. Keep taking notes every few days to detail how your injuries are affecting your day-to-day life. Although this may be difficult, these notes can be an asset to your case.
If you suffered injury as a housecleaner and you are an employee at a hotel or with a cleaning company in Maryland, you should be entitled to workers’ compensation. Under the law, you can make a claim for all of your medical treatments and expenses as well a percentage of your lost wages.
If you are ineligible for workers’ compensation, or are injured by a defective or dangerous product, you may have to go through the legal system to secure compensation for your medical bills and care. The experienced team at Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. can help determine whether a personal injury lawsuit is the better option for you.
At Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A, our Maryland accident and injury attorneys are here to help when you or a loved one are harmed by another’s negligence. We fight to secure financial compensation on your behalf when you suffer an injury that wasn’t your fault, and you can take the time to recover. Contact us today about your case. Call us at 410-730-7737, or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We maintain offices throughout Maryland to better serve our clients.