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Cal/OSHA enacts safety rules for hotel housekeepers

California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health has voted unanimously to approve new safety measures for hotel housekeepers. The new section is meant to keep workers safe from physical injuries and other dangers commonly found in the hospitality industry.

For example, hotel housekeepers often suffer from sprains and muscle strain as they repeatedly push heavy carts and vacuums and turn over mattresses, sometimes weighing over 100 lbs, on a daily basis. Cal/OSHA states that these injuries may require physical therapy and even lead to permanent disabilities. In 2012, to raise awareness of these issues, the hospitality union Unite Here petitioned Cal/OSHA to create a safety standard protecting these workers.

The union points out how hotel housekeepers, who are mostly composed of women, immigrants, and people of color, form the invisible backbone of the hospitality industry. Yet they are often victims of assault and sexual harassment. Heavy workloads also do a lot to exacerbate injuries. The new safety standards require hotels to provide employees with long-handled mops, bed-making devices, and other tools. Owners must also train housekeepers on how to identify safety risks, and housekeepers are allowed to suggest solutions to those risks.

When hotel housekeepers incur work-related injuries, they should be able to receive workers' compensation. To file for these benefits, it isn't required for the victim to show that anyone was at fault. However, some employers try to discourage workers from filing a claim, and others retaliate against them for doing so. As a result, it might be advisable to have legal representation throughout the process.

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