Hotel and motel industry carries unique workers’ comp baggage

It has the widest variety of employees among any class, no reservations

Hotel and motel industry carries unique workers’ comp baggage

Workers Comp

By Alicja Grzadkowska

As people plan trips for the New Year, one type of business that might see an influx of customers are hotels and motels. However, this industry and their myriad of employees face a complex web of workers’ compensation exposures.

“Hotels are interesting because they probably have the widest variety of workers among almost any class, and of course there’s a variety of hotels, ranging from your resort hotels down to your roadside motels,” said Matt Zender, AmTrust Financial Services’ senior vice president of workers’ compensation strategy. “The wide variety of workers that exists within a hotel adds complexities for those hotels and motels’ ability to manage that [exposure]. You have everything from housekeepers to laundry staff, to restaurant workers and clerical workers, to landscapers and maintenance, so there’s a wide variety of workers and it can be a challenge.”

Most of the claims in the hotel sector that AmTrust sees occur within the housekeeping department, which isn’t entirely surprising, according to Zender, because they draw a large chunk of payroll in addition to the stresses of their roles.

“Housekeepers pose a challenge because they are almost always working in an unsupervised manner, [so you see] unwitnessed claims, and they’re also working in a fairly hazardous manner,” he explained. “Housekeepers do a fair amount of lifting, and they can be subject to slip and falls as they’re cleaning bathroom floors.”

There are risk mitigation strategies that employers can implement to help avoid some of those claims, such as lift-assist mechanisms that can help housekeepers lift mattresses so that they can properly tuck in the sheets, greatly reducing the stress of lifting. There are likewise non-slip shoes that can help avoid slip and falls in the bathrooms when they’re cleaning the floors. There are also things that hotels can do regarding the number of rooms housekeepers are responsible for – Zender encourages hotels to think about the go green initiative to encourage the folks that are staying there to maybe not wash their towel or sheets every day.

“A go green initiative is going to help cut down on the amount of manual labor that both the housekeepers and the laundry workers have to deal with,” he told Insurance Business. “And it might allow a housekeeper to manage those same, say 10, rooms, but do so in a less stressful manner.”

While risks to some hotel employees can intensify during the holiday season, that exposure is totally dependent on the hotel’s geography and its niche.

“You can have a hotel by Rockefeller Plaza that’s going to have 100% occupancy around the holidays and they absolutely are going to be facing some of these issues, but maybe a hotel in New Orleans by Bourbon Street, they’re mostly affected on weekends or around Mardi Gras,” said Zender. “Pace being an issue is something that hotels have dealt with for years as they deal with fluctuating occupancy, and when you’re running at near 100% occupancy, it puts a lot of strain throughout the organization to make sure that everything is getting done.”

Besides helping out housekeepers, there are other risk management techniques that these businesses can put into action to help workers across the organization.

“The first thing that they need to do is focus on some micromanaging because each of the areas has unique risks. The issues that you have worrying about the folks who are handling your catering and your conference center, for example, are going to be much different than the concerns that you’d have among your janitorial or maintenance folks,” said Zender. “Maintaining a specialization and micromanaged approach to make sure that the message is unique in such a broad industry, I think that’s very important.”

It’s also vital that hotels ensure their entire operation understands what’s important and what makes that hotel special.

“Pull everybody together and let them know what the common goal is – and you’re not going to be able to do that every day, but by doing it on a routine basis, I think both those efforts working in concert lead people to feel more proud about the property that they’re working on,” explained Zender. “And that’s one thing that a hotel has working in its favor, is its brand and that you tend to have an affinity to the hotel you’re working at – you wear the uniform proudly and you’re trying to represent the experience that you want your guests to have.”

AmTrust is a particularly competitive workers’ compensation insurance partner for the hotel and motel industry.

“Because of how many hotels we’ve written and because we have some agents who have a great degree of specialty in this area, we’ve gained a lot of insight [into this industry],” said Zender. “So, we have the ability to help partner with them to make sure that we’re pricing it appropriately and that we’re going to provide the right resources. A lot of our agent partners have built in their own loss control resources so we can help partner and supplement those efforts, and we know that since these tend to be larger entities, we want to make sure that we’re putting the right effort behind them.”

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