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Housekeepers Deserve the Chance to Use Green Cleaning Products


Earlier this year, UNITE HERE, a union representing 90,000 U.S. hotel workers, released the results of a study that showed that hotel housekeepers have a 10.4 percent injury rate, 85 percent higher than the 5.6 percent injury rate of non-housekeepers. Surprised? The study tracked 40,000 hotel workers’ injuries at 87 U.S. lodgings from 1999 to 2005.

The American Hotel & Lodging Assn. responded to the study by stating that the injury rate is still lower than other service industries and that the lodging industry has done a lot to address ergonomics and other housekeeper injury issues. That may be true but we all know that the job of a room attendant is not an easy one—and the industry can do a much better job reducing the potential for injuries.

One area that needs to be addressed is cleaning chemicals. Be honest, do you really know what chemicals your staff is exposed to each day and what the hazards of each chemical are? When was the last time you checked the ingredients on each container? Or read the instructions to know that each product is being properly used—with the right amount of ventilation?

One state of Washington study found that housekeepers are seven times more likely to suffer chemical injuries than other service workers that use chemicals as part of their jobs. The average cost of each injury, the study found, was $1,600. Has your hotel’s cleaning staff experienced similar issues with hazardous chemicals?

Hoteliers Turn to Green Cleaning

Increasingly, hotel operators are turning to nontoxic cleaning products to protect the health of their housekeepers—and guests, too. There are numerous green cleaning products available that have proven to clean just as well or better, and for a price competitive to traditional cleaning fluids. Many of these products are mentioned on this website in articles appearing in the “Cleaning & Maintenance” department.

Green cleaning products help reduce worker injuries and associated health care costs, reduce or eliminate hazardous waste, and improve worker morale. Happier, healthier employees tend to be more loyal, which reduces expenses related to hiring and training.

If you are not sure green cleaning products are the answer for your property, try a test. That is what the Orchard Hotel in San Francisco did. (See article.) At that hotel, one group of housekeepers used the chemicals they had been using but the other group tried natural cleaners. The result: the hotel is now using green products.

“We concluded that the citrus-based products cleaned just as well and were cost effective,” says Stefan Mühle, general manager. “The respiratory issues and dry hands caused by the chemical cleaners also went away. Our housekeepers were skeptical at first but we let them make the decision. Once you let them participate, it instills a great deal of pride and makes them a much better team.”

Many of us old enough remember the TV commercial where Madge (actress Jan Miner), Palmolive’s spokeswoman, stuck the hand of a housewife in a bowl of Palmolive dish detergent with no ill effects. It was a classic commercial. Unfortunately, the chemicals your housekeepers are using today are not so skin friendly. Would you soak your hand in them?

Yes, you should give your housekeepers a choice whether or not to use green cleaning products. Better yet, just skip that step and implement the change to green. The benefits are hard to dispute. And, if your cleaning product supplier does not give you green options, tell them you may have to consider taking your business elsewhere.

Odds and Ends

Green Lodging News welcomes Wet-Tech as a Green Product Directory sponsor. Wet-Tech designs, develops and manufactures energy- and water-saving EnviroSaver II Ozone equipment. Applications for the company’s ozone treatment systems include the laundry, washrooms, air and water purification, waste water treatment, cooling towers, swimming pools, and food processing production area cleaning and sanitizing.

As always, your comments are welcome. Please write to Glenn Hasek, publisher and editor of Green Lodging News, at greenlodgingnews@aol.com.