The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency under the U.S. Department of Labor which oversees and regulates public and private workplace safety and health. Hotels are included in these compliance standards. Regulations for hotel room attendants/housekeepers are of particular importance because of the constant exposure to possible infectious bodily fluids found while cleaning hotel rooms.
Standards for Carpet Cleaning
As hotels may host thousands of guests a year, it is a known fact that certain materials will no doubt be spilled on the carpets. Many times, bodily fluids will be present in the rooms. According to OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard, contaminated carpets may carry blood or other infectious materials. As such, when these infectious materials are spilled onto carpets, Robert L. Anderson, Ph.D. of the National Center for Infectious Diseases states that, "Blood or other body fluids spilled on carpets should be promptly and carefully cleaned, and disinfected. If such fluids are allowed to stand for a period of time and harden or "set up," the removal of these dried fluid materials will be difficult. Concerning the treatment of carpets, the highest grade of antimicrobial activity possible is "sanitizing," which simply reduces the total number of bacteria present." While there is no set standard for what type of disinfectants are to be used, they must be present when cleaning contaminated carpets.
Housekeepers in a hotel may be at the most risk for coming into contact with infectious bodily fluids. Included in OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard mentioned above, an employer must implement a written schedule located within the facility which states the types of surfaces to be cleaned, the type of soil present and other tasks needed to be performed in this area. Another OSHA concern for housekeepers is exposure to sharps and containers. OSHA recommends in one of its regulations that sharps "be properly disposed of immediately or as soon as feasible into appropriate containers."
With the amount of cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and linens occurring in hotels, employee exposure to hazardous chemicals is of great concern. OSHA recommends having a written program located in the facility and containing such things outlined in the Hazard Communication Standard. Such a program should state where first aid services can located on the premise. Additionally, written procedures for the appropriate gloves and eyewear to be used in order to protect the body against harmful chemicals should be in place.
Slips and Falls
Possibly most pertinent to kitchens and bathrooms, slips and fall accidents due to spilling of liquids is also a big concern in the hotel industry. OSHA recommends and states in the Walking/Working Surfaces Standard, that employers, "maintain floors in a clean and, so far as possible, dry condition, and mats provided where practicable." OSHA recommends such things as handrails, good housekeeping procedures, and immediate floor clean-up of spills to prevent such accidents.
With hotel linens being changed on a daily basis, proper disinfection is important in keeping safe conditions. Bloodborne and other infectious fluids may often be present in hotel sheets and towels. According to OSHA, "contaminated laundry shall not be sorted or rinsed in the location of use , and must be transported to the laundry for decontamination in bags or containers labeled or color-coded in accordance with 1910.1030(g)(1)(i)." OSHA recommends melt away bags which can be thrown directly into washers without having to unload the contaminated laundry, therefore reducing the risk of coming into contact with contaminates.