From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Study Shows Disproportionately High Injury Risk for Housekeepers in US Hotel Industry

Hotel housekeepers — those who perform guest room cleaning — experienced the highest overall injury rate (7.9/100 worker-years) and highest rate of musculoskeletal injuries (3.2/100 worker-years) compared to all other hotel non-supervisor job categories according to an analysis of 2003-2005 OSHA 300 log data from 50 large sized hotels.  The study reviewed 2,865 reported incidents covering 55,327 hotel worker-years to assess injury risk based on job, gender, and race/ethnicity.

The overall injury rate was 5.2/100 worker-years while the musculoskeletal (MSDs) injury rate was 2.02/100 worker-years. 

Female employees had a higher overall rate of injury compared to males (6.3 versus 4.3).  Hispanic females had nearly double the risk of injury compared to white females.  Asian and Hispanic males were injured at a rate about 1.5 times higher than white males.
Hispanic workers had the highest overall injury rate (10.6/100 worker-years), the highest rate of MSDs (4.4/100 workers years), and the highest rate of acute traumas (4.9/100 worker/years).  Female, Hispanic housekeepers were 1.7 times more likely to become injured than controls.

Five major United States hotel companies were represented in the study.  There was twice the likelihood of injury in three of the companies when compared to the other two.

The Bottom Line – How This Applies To Ergonomists
Although this study did not evaluate association between risk factors and injuries among hotel workers, it did identify the higher rates of injury among housekeepers, females, and Hispanic workers.  While nearly half of the overall study group was female, 97.7% of the workers in the housekeepers job category were females.  Further, over 35% of the housekeepers were Hispanic. 

The authors point out that cleaning tasks (housekeeping essential functions) have been found to require high physical demands and that along with “job gender stereotyping” and low status work activity, these groups may be exposed to higher risk of injury. 

Race/ethnicity in itself has not been associated with increase risk according to several studies.  As mentioned by the researchers, investigation findings may be explained by discrimination – purposeful assignment of disadvantaged groups to unsafe or higher risk jobs. 

The marked variation of company injury rates indicates that an ergonomic program would likely have a high impact on reducing occupational disorders in this industry.

Other Key Study Points
Prior studies have noted that compared to all other service sector jobs, hotel workers are nearly 40% more likely to sustain an industrial injury/illness.  Further, hotel workers seem to experience more severe disorders as reflected by statistics/studies that indicate this occupational group has more lost time days, more job transfers, and greater work restrictions compared to other hospitality industry jobs.

In this study, 52% of the injuries were classified as acute trauma followed by 39% considered to be musculoskeletal disorders.  The most common body region of injury was the upper extremity followed by the low back and the lower extremity.  However, among MSDs, 40% involved the back, 22% the distal upper extremity, and 13% the shoulder.

The mean age of the study group was 44.5 years and the mean job tenure was 9.61 years.

Study Method
The group of interest was non-supervisory hotel workers who worked at least 2 weeks during each year of study (2003-2005) at a full-service hotel (a facility that has at least 100 guest rooms and a minimum of 10,000 square feet of conference space).  Fifty hotels from the five dominate hotel companies provided employee and OSHA 300 log data.

From the employee information, five job categories were created: housekeepers (21%), banquet servers (11%), stewards/dishwashers (6%), cooks/kitchen workers (8%), and others (54%).  Also, employee gender (56.4% male, 43.6% female) and race/ethnicity (White 20.3%, Asian 24.2%, Black 22.2%, Hispanic 33.3%, and American Indian <1%) was established based on employee self report.

The injury description section of the OSHA 300 log was interpreted to categorize the incident as:

  • musculoskeletal disorder – following US BLS definition: “an injury or disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, or spinal discs.  MSDs do not include disorders caused by slips, trips, falls, motor vehicle accidents, or similar accidents”; regional pain and strains/sprains were considered MSDs unless stairs/ladders or the above exclusion mechanisms of injury were involved
  • acute trauma – contusions, fractures, lacerations, heat burns, and strains/sprains that were due to acute contact with outside objects
  • other – chemical exposures, foreign bodies (i.e., sliver in the skin)
  • not classifiable – insufficient information to determine the type of injury

Risk ratios were calculated using reference groups of males, whites, “other” job title, and employees from a specific hotel company that had significant labor union activity.  Regression models were developed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, job title, job tenure, and hotel company.

This study can be acquired at:

Article Title: Occupational Injury Disparities in the US Hotel Industry

Publication: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 53:116-125, 2010

Authors: S Buchanan, P Vossenas, N Krause, J Moriarty, E Frumin, J M Shimek, F Mirer, P Orris, and L Punnett

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2010-02-16.