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What Do Mattresses Have to Do With Ergonomics in the Workplace?

Posted by EHS Insight Staff on August 18, 2016 at 1:12 PM

Who knew luxury mattresses would cause such a ruckus in the world of workplace safety? Turns out what's good for customers' backs is very bad for the aching backs of housekeeping. 

Almost every industry has ergonomic dangers built right in. The hotel industry, for example, went through a shakeup in 2012 when OSHA cited Hyatt Hotels. The problem? Luxury mattresses!

You see, in the competitive luxury hotel business, the premium mattress has become a major drawing card for guests, but at the expense of housekeepers' backs. Housekeepers were having to lift the new 100-lb mattresses several times a day in order to make beds. On a typical day, they would lift 16 to 25 beds.

Safety Training and Better Tools Can Help

OSHA didn't like these Hyatt conditions one bit, so they sent a letter to the president of the chain, asking him to please consider his workers' backs. Heavy luxury mattresses weren't the only consideration Hyatt was asked to examine. The letter also pointed out that many simple tools like mops with long handles would also work to save their employees' backs.

In addition, the matter of safety training came up. OSHA suggested that Hyatt train their employees on reducing the load they lifted, for example.

Hyatt isn't alone in these issues, however.

The Hotel Industry Has Issues With Workplace Safety

According to the data, hotel workers have a higher rate of injury than workers in other service industries. And the data also tells us it's their backs that are often the problem. Professor William S. Marras, who helps run the Institute for Ergonomics in Ohio, has devised a tool for measuring the strain on someone's back while in motion. What he discovered was in line with what OSHA stated in its letter to Hyatt.

"We heard that things were changing for hotel housekeepers, and so we applied this to them. I was surprised to see how risky these jobs were."

-Professor William S. Marras, Institute for Ergonomics at Ohio State

The Answer Lies in Safety Training & Better Ergonomics

It's clear that the hotel industry and its customers aren't going to give up luxury mattresses any time soon. But that doesn't mean workers have to suffer back pain and injuries. Advances in training techniques are already helping in chains like the Hilton, which has also taken steps to reduce the workload in its housekeeping department. 

Learn more about how training tracking software can improve your program.

Topics: Training Management, OSHA, Workplace Health and Safety

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