Best Practices for Hotel Shuttle Drivers and Guest Baggage

ValorosePosted by Scott Valorose, CPE, CSP

Hospitality employees are at an increased risk of injury compared to several other industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015 data, the injury and illness rate [1] for hotel employees was 5.1 compared to 3.0 for general industry. 

Additionally, at properties servicing airports, often hotel shuttle drivers are lifting and handling guest baggage throughout their shift as well as spending significant time sitting in vans or mini-buses. The combination of risks, material handling and static sitting posture, increases the likelihood of injury for these workers. Read on for some tips on what to know and what to do to minimize risk and injuries.



Shuttle drivers who handle passenger baggage, often to and from airports, may be exposed to risk factors that increase the risk of injury to the back, shoulders, and arms. Risk factors include forceful exertions, awkward postures, and repetition. In general, risk is increased when forces are greater, bending and reaching are more exaggerated, or physical actions are more frequent.

  • Handling bags at airports that weigh 40 pounds or more has been found to increase the risk of injury for most healthy people. [2] Weight can also be concentrated more at one end of the bag or shift while handling it. Airlines often tag overweight bags as such, thus giving the handler some warning. However, that weight is generally for bags over 50 pounds so is not effective for most “heavy” bags. Most passengers don’t want to pay the overweight bag fee, but again that limit is usually 50 pounds. 
  • The lower back may be more vulnerable to injury due to prolonged sitting while driving. Sitting produces more stress to the lower back, especially if the seat doesn’t provide good support or the driver isn’t aware of proper posture. Stretch breaks that may be helpful are often not possible especially during the busy shifts of the day. 


  • Test the weight of the bag and/or ask the traveler prior to fully lifting the bag. Knowing how much weight to prepare for and adapt practices to can be helpful. [3, 4] Choose to load these bags first to allow for more choice and to help minimize reaching if loading from the outside. As stated above, don’t rely on “overweight” tags or assume a smaller bag isn’t very heavy.
  • When stowing baggage from outside the shuttle, consider positioning bags on the wheeled end or standing them upright. Doing so has been found to help reduce the physical demands on the back and shoulders. [3] From inside the shuttle, stowing bags on the lowest shelf with the wheels down can also make it easier.
  • Pay attention to handle placement. Most bags have at least two handles. Use both handles to better distribute the effort required and to stay close as possible. Keeping the load close to the body’s centerline minimizes the stress to the body. Think “weight x distance = force.”
  • If handling at chest height or above, consider supporting the bag from underneath rather than with a handle. This should help keep the arm closer to the body and protect the shoulder. Quick motions to start a lift should be minimized. Although the use of momentum can have some benefits, more effort is required to start the lift or motion.
  • Lastly, after driving, or during breaks if you’re able, take a few seconds to stretch - place your hands on your hips, slightly bend your knees, and gently lean backward. It is beneficial to get in the habit of taking regular stretch breaks.

OSHA provides a Baggage Handling eTool focused on airline employees such as ticket agents and ramp agents, but some of the guidance may be helpful for any employee engaged in baggage handling. Additional hospitality resources for MEMIC customers can be found in the Safety Director.

[1] BLS , Cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers

[2] NIOSH (2014), EPHB Report No. 010-22a

[3] Dell (1998), Safety Science Monitor

[4] Korkmaz et al (2006), Int’l Journal of Industrial Ergonomics

Bunk Beds De-bunked!

KochPosted by Peter Koch

Housekeepers unite! It’s time we de-bunked. While bunk beds are common in many segments of the hospitality industry and serve to increase the occupancy of a room, they can be a real pain in a housekeeper’s day.  This becomes even more important as summer camps open and more bunk beds are in use.  Ask any housekeeper, “Which would you rather do, clean a bathroom or make up a bunk bed?”  Inevitably, they will choose bathroom duty. 

Bunk beds come in many shapes and sizes, but all have the same basic hazards:

These exposures increase the force it takes to do the same tasks as a regular bed, no matter the size.  Using proper technique as allowed by the bed configuration, lifting the edge of a twin mattress on a top bunk can put more strain on the shoulder and back than lifting the edge of a king mattress on a bed positioned at the housekeepers waist.  Pic 1 5 19

While there are no national statistics on bunk bed injuries among housekeeping staff, their design alone places limitations on the controls that can be implemented.  The best practice is transitioning to a “no bunk bed environment”.  However, this is usually beyond the scope of most housekeeping teams, so here are a few quick tips to tame bunk bed tasks:

  • Create space
    1. Move the bunk away from the wall so the team can work on both sides of the bed.
    2. No Bunk Monkeys - Assigning the smallest person to climb to the top bunk and do the work that can’t be reached from the open side is a widely used practice. However, this brings on its own set of exposures and is not recommended.

Pic 2 5 19

  • Work as a team
    1. Two housekeepers are recommended to tackle the bunk bed tasks. Working together they can share the load and reduce the forces required.
  • Remove the rails or work between them
    1. If the bunk has removable rails, take them down. This will allow the team to work without having to reach over it.
    2. If the rails can’t be removed, work between or under them when possible. This will also limit awkward postures.

Pic 3 5 19

  • Consider custom tools
    1. Using a pole or board placed under the mattress and between the rails can provide needed space and limit the length of time the mattress must be held manually.
  • Change positions to reduce sustained awkward postures
    1. Stand up to position the bedding.
    2. Kneel to spread, smooth and tuck.

Pic 4 5 19


Bloodborne Pathogens – When is a Program Required?

SylvesterPosted by Rob Sylvester, CEHT

A Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) program is a given for healthcare organizations, but what about other industries? Requirements may apply to more than just bloodborne pathogens.  OSHA identifies a host of “other potentially infectious materials.” Taken directly from CFR1910.1030:

Other Potentially Infectious Materials means

(1) The following human body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids; 

Many of you may be thinking, “My employees don’t come into contact with that stuff!Generally, if you work in a machine shop or a grocery store you would be correct, but there may be exceptions. For example, an employee, visitor, or customer cuts themselves. The injured person is unable to clean up their own blood as they were whisked off to the urgent care clinic. Who then is responsible for cleanup?  How about your designated first responders or those providing first aid? If so, they are covered by the standard. Injuries like these are fairly common, and the business disruption while the cleanup takes place can be significant. Safe and expeditious cleanup comes from personnel thoroughly trained in proper cleaning methods and personal protection. 

Housekeepers in the hospitality industry may also be covered by this standard. It’s likely that these workers will encounter human body fluids while cleaning hotel rooms, bathrooms, and other public spaces. OSHA’s letters of interpretation don’t dictate either way, but put the responsibility on the employer to make this determination. Providing awareness training is prudent in this case. You can find additional letters of interpretation here

In closing, ask yourself this simple question: “Is there a reasonable expectation that employees will come into contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials?” If the answer is “no” then a program is likely not required. If the answer is “yes”, or even “maybe” then a program compliant with CFR 1910.1030 is required.

MEMIC customers have access to program templates and training located in the Safety Director along with additional training in the Safety Academy. Additional information is available from your MEMIC Safety Management consultant, your broker/agent, third party consultants, or OSHA/DOL Consultation Department.


Pillow Talk

  Koch Posted by Peter Koch

Are you a folder, squisher, pusher, puncher, or squeezer?

Of the many different tasks a housekeeper must do during the day, getting the pillow into its case can be overlooked. The end result is always discussed: how the ends are tucked, is it fluffed, is it covered, and even the location on the bed. However, how the pillow gets into the case can be minimalized in the overall room servicing process. To evaluate the performance expectations when encasing a pillow, consider safety, quality, and productivity. Or sanitation and injury prevention, first impression impact, and time.

One common way to encase a pillow is using 2 hands and a chin. Holding the end of the pillow squeezed between the chin and chest, while sliding the case up and around the pillow with both hands. While this method is relatively fast and helps to keep the case wrinkle free, it is considered unsanitary and places undue stress on the neck and shoulders. This process often ends with the housekeeper holding the case with the pillow inside and “shaking” or “snapping” the pillow down into the corners, which adds stress to the shoulders and wrists.

Another method is to grasp the pillow in one hand and the case in the other, then push the pillow into the case while pulling the case onto the pillow. Depending on the size of the pillow and case, this can often means pulling the pillow or case up to the housekeeper’s arm pit. This can also be unsanitary and cause repeated stress on the shoulders, elbows and wrist.

Yet one more method is to grasp the pillow near the end and slide it into the case without folding or bending. While a sanitary, safe, and quick way to encase a pillow, pillows that are new or overstuffed will cause frustration and add time to smooth out the wrinkles.

There are 2 recommended methods that address all three performance considerations.

First is the squeeze, slide and shake method. Squeeze the pillow down on the bed like an accordion. Then hold the side seams of the case and pull it down around the pillow. Once the case is around the pillow, invert the case, still holding the side seams, and shake gently to set the pillow into the case corners. This method is quick and sanitary, but can have a tendency to wrinkle the case and cause stress to the wrists while setting the pillow.

Pillow 2The second and preferred method which works for just about any pillow regardless of age and size, is the fold and slide. First fold the pillow in half down its length. Then, while holding the case open on the bed, slide the folded pillow into the case with the other hand in one smooth movement. When the pillow is released, it will open into the case and, if needed, the corners can be set with a light shake or by reaching into the case. With practice, a housekeeper can become proficient. This method address safety, quality, and productivity by eliminating contact with the chin or armpit, keeping the case from wrinkling, relieving stress on the neck and shoulders, and allowing the housekeeper to switch hands.

While neither method is perfect, both provide the housekeeper with ways to meet or exceed daily performance expectations for quality, safety, and productivity.

Serving Up Safety

Scott Valorose 2014 Posted by Scott Valorose

What’s on the menu if you’re a leader in your restaurant or commercial kitchen?  The answer, of course, is the safety of your professional staff.  To create a well balanced menu, start by focusing on the industry’s common losses and/or those you may be experiencing.  Losses typically include cuts, strains and sprains, and burns:

  • Cuts – to the hands, fingers, and thumb from knives, other blades, and broken glass or wares
  • Strains and sprains – to the lower extremities, hips, back, and shoulders from falls on wet floors and over-exertions
  • Burns – to the hands, arms, and face from hot surfaces, flames, foods, and liquids

Make sure to include the following preventative items:


  • Utilize food processors or manual processors to reduce the use of knives for some food prep
  • Adopt safe knife use and handling procedures
  • Require the use of cut resistant gloves
  • Scheduled knife sharpening by an outside service
  • Establish written instructions and postings on safe operation and cleaning of equipment

Slips and Falls

  • Slip resistant flooring in good condition and well maintained
  • Plans and actions to keep any walking surface dry and clean
  • Slip resistant footwear (in good condition)
  • Floor mats (in good condition)


  • Establish limits on items or loads carried at one time 
  • Set work heights to reduce bending forward 
  • Teach techniques that keep the elbows near the body
  • Ensure the storage of heavy items or containers at or near waist level


  • Use mitts, gloves, aprons, and/or towels as appropriate 
  • Set limits on filling pots, cups, or other wares 
  • Teach techniques to keep the hands and body away from escaping steam

For the above items to be effective, it takes good leadership to ensure all staff members are aware of established safety goals and performance expectations.  Mitts don’t protect if they’re not worn.  Knife skills protect only when compliance is 100%.  Performance or the actions and behaviors you want embraced must be periodically monitored.  When staff members are observed doing the right thing, recognition needs to be expressed.  Staff also need to understand that non-compliance will be noticed and consistently addressed.

Additional specialty items are served up on MEMIC’s Safety Director (Webinars on Demand) and at:

Workplace Housekeeping

Scott Valorose 2012 Posted by Scott Valorose

Housekeeping in the workplace is a critical safety issue – it’s even regulated:

  • All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms shall be kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition (to the extent the work allows).
  • The floor of every workroom shall be maintained in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition. Where wet processes are used, drainage shall be maintained, and false floors, platforms, mats, or other dry standing places should be provided where practicable (waterproof footgear shall be provided).
  • To facilitate cleaning, every floor, working place, and passageway shall be kept free from protruding nails, splinters, (unnecessary) holes (and openings), or loose boards.
  • Storage areas shall be kept free from accumulation of materials that constitute hazards from tripping, fire, explosion or pest harborage.
  • In fiscal year 2011, OSHA issued $2.34 million in proposed housekeeping penalties.*

Benefits of good housekeeping:

  • Reduces hazards (Trip / Fall, Strike Against, Puncture / Cut, Fire, Chemical).
  • Enables you to find what you’re looking for.
  • Leads to efficient production and higher quality.
  • Facilitates safe and timely evacuation during emergencies.
  • Enables safe and timely emergency responses.

Good housekeeping practices:

  • All tools, equipment, and materials should have a specific storage space.
  • Get rid of what you don’t use or need.
  • Store items when done with them, not afterwards.
  • Store items properly, not sticking out of drawers or into aisles or work areas.
  • Set up storage location(s) based on frequency of use.
  • Don’t run or leave items on the floor – cords, cables, air hoses, debris.
  • Close cabinet or storage drawers and doors.
  • Use oily waste containers and empty daily.
  • Remove any unused or unnecessary chemicals from the facility.
  • Keep exits, electrical panels, and fire extinguishing equipment clear.
  • Minimize or keep food and drinks off of the production floor.
  • Develop a facility-cleaning schedule, especially accumulated dusts.
  • Develop accountability and make housekeeping part of one’s job performance.
  • Inspect regularly and report hazards.
  • Take action when hazards are identified – Don’t walk on by.

Additional information and guidance:

* National Safety Council


Knife Safety in the Kitchen

Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

Every task has the proper tool, and the versatile kitchen knife can cover a broad range of tasks - cutting, slicing, chopping, dicing, mincing, boning, paring, etc...  Experienced chefs will tell you that sharp, good quality knives are critical to the balance of safety, quality, and productivity in the kitchen.  When knives are used incorrectly or stored improperly, that balance is upset and injuries can occur.

Every business with a kitchen component should have a knife use training and approval process that covers safety, skills, storage, cleaning, PPE, and a demonstration of proper technique.  Regardless of who is approved to use the knives, all kitchen staff should follow these tips:

  1. Only use knives for their intended purpose – Using knives for breaking down boxes, opening containers, breaking lid seals, opening bags, separating frozen product will dull, damage, or even break them.  Knives should only be used on the tasks for which they were designed – A 10” chef’s knife should not be used for paring potatoes and a paring knife is not appropriate to chop salad fixings.  Training on which knives are to be used, and for what purpose, must be integrated into the training program and reinforced during safety meetings and performance observations.
  2. Keep them sharp – A dull knife is a dangerous knife.  When a knife doesn’t move easily through the product, the user, especially less experienced ones, respond by increasing pressure.  This results in reduced control of the blade, increasing the potential for a mistake and injury to the user or someone nearby.  Sharpening should be done only by trained and experienced people; it may be more efficient to have an outside service sharpen knifes instead of using a busy chef or warewasher.
  3. Cutting boards are key – Use knives on an approved cutting board, instead of the tiled counter or steel table top, to limit cross contamination and provide a stable surface that does not dull the knife’s edge.
  4. Cut resistant gloves – Inexperience, fatigue, and repetitive tasks increase the potential for injury due to lack of skill, decreased attention over time, and an increase in the sheer number of knife strokes.  Use of cut resistant gloves limits the effect of a mistake, turning a sliced finger and ruined product into a near miss.  Cut resistant glove examples can be found through this link.
  5. Never catch a falling knife – When an object is dropped, the natural reaction is to grab for it.  Trying to catch it just puts you in harm’s way.  The knife can always be washed or re-sharpened.
  6. Cut away – Cutting motions should always be away from your body.  This minimizes the possibility for injury should the product slip or move unexpectedly.
  7. Store knives properly – Knives should never be left unattended.  When not in use knives must be stowed in a proper block or rack to minimize damage to the blade and accidental contact.  After use, dirty knives should be rinsed and placed in a separate basin designated for sharps to be washed by the warewasher.

Knife safety including proper technique and tools, skilled workers, and a solid performance enhancement program can help reduce or eliminate cut injuries in the kitchen.  Remember, ALL knife injuries in the kitchen are PREVENTABLE.

Improve Housekeeping Ergonomics (Part 3) - Check Your EARSS

 Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

The previous two housekeeping ergo blogs covered the risk factors of force, frequency, and posture in housekeeping tasks and their relationship to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD’s).

Ergonomic risks are most effectively addressed by modifying the workspace to accommodate the worker.  Unfortunately, many housekeeping tasks cannot have the risks engineered out.  Housekeepers must modify their behavior and use available tools to manage the force and frequency required for the task, as well as their own posture.

What can you do?  Before you work stop and check your E.A.R.S.S.:

  • Evaluate your work area for awkward postures.
    • Identify tasks where:
      • Elbows are at or above shoulder height
      • Upper body is bent forward at the waist
      • Wrists are bent
      • Squatting or kneeling is necessary
      • Twisting and reaching (up/over) a
    • Locate where you can support your upper body when bending over
  • Alternate between tasks (with different force and posture demands). 
    • Bathrooms to bed making
    • Bed making to kitchens/vacuuming
    • Kitchens to bathrooms
    • Switch hands during a task
    • Change direction of rotation (clockwise to counter clockwise)
  • Review, and learn to use the tools you have available for lifting, moving, and reaching.
    • Long or short handled scrubbers, dusters, sweepers
    • Short stools to increase height and decrease overhead reach
    • Keep tools and linen off the floor
  • Soften the points of contact between hard surfaces, knees, elbows, wrists.
    •  Use towels or pads under knees
    •  Look for rounded edges to rest hands or wrists across
  • Stretch often throughout the day and after working in one position for a long time.
    • Increase blood flow by using micro breaks (15-30 seconds) to stretch before, and during, tasks
    • Stretch to reset after sustained or repeated awkward positions
    • Whole body stretch between tasks and between rooms

Good posture, using tools, and rotating tasks are part of worker’s on the job behavior.  Since most behaviors are unconscious, it is critical for housekeepers to develop habits that allow them to make conscious behavior choices for safety while maintaining quality and productivity.

Improving Housekeeping Ergonomics (Part 1)

Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

Housekeeping is a manual material handling job that requires bending, lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling repetitively throughout the day-- often in awkward postures.    Each housekeeping task carries certain risk factors.  When these factors occur together during the work shift there is an increased risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs).

The injury potential can be evaluated by how the force, frequency, and posture of the task multiply the risk. 

  • Force is caused by either an internal or external load.  It is determined by gravity, the load lifted, and position of the body.
    • Pressure required to push the scrub brush into the tile
    • Lifting linen, laundry, beds, or furniture
    • Pushing or pulling carts
  •  Frequency is the repetition of a task, or a motion or behavior with in a task. 
    • Bed making, cleaning showers, vacuuming, folding
    • Scrubbing, sweeping, polishing
  • Posture can change efficiency of force on the musculoskeletal system. 
    • Bending to tuck sheet corners
    • Crouching while cleaning behind toilet
    • Installing shower curtains overhead

In general, the greater the force, higher the frequency, and more awkward a posture is while performing a task -- the greater the risk of injury.  Addressing these risk multipliers, through planning and safe work practices, can improve housekeeping ergonomics, while reducing the potential for injury. 

The next Housekeeping Ergonomics blog reviews, in more depth, the relationship between these factors.

For more information on general housekeeping ergonomics use the following links:

A New Year's Resolution we can all benefit from... Improve your Safety Program

EricGrant Posted by Eric Grant

As we begin 2013, if you are like most people, you have probably made a New Year’s Resolution.   Consider the same for your business and more specifically, your injury prevention program.

Consider these ideas or brainstorm with your safety committee and/or leadership team:

  • Focus on company specific exposures - Work with your agent to review injury claims and loss runs.   Refer to your OSHA 300 log to determine areas of opportunity.
  • Develop a formal safety training agenda - OSHA compliance is a start but should not be the finish. Remember 15% of claims are associated with unsafe conditions, but 85% are caused by unsafe behaviors.
  • Conduct quality Event Investigations - Determine root cause and take corrective actions. Remember, look for the Facts, not Fault and operational involvement is key to an effective program. (Visit the MEMIC Safety Director for program materials)
  • Utilize your resources - Internal (supervisors/experienced workers, safety committee, leadership, HR) and external (MEMIC loss control, state consultation services, private consultants, your insurance agency). 
  • Recognize and reward positive behaviors - Consider implementing a formal program that reinforces positive actions taken by employees at all levels.
  • Pre-plan activities with a focus on safety & injury prevention - Have you considered implementing a Job Hazard Analysis Program? This may be the year to get it done!
  • Provide leadership accountability training - Integrate safety with business goals.  Management commitment is one of the foundations of a comprehensive health and safety program.
  • Explore ways to increase employee involvement - Examples include safety committees, routine self-inspections, participation in training agendas, and company sponsored activities/programs.
  • Implement a formal routine self-inspection program - What does OSHA want from businesses? Identify hazards and correct them! Get out there and inspect your workplace and implement follow up corrective actions. 

Reduce injury claim frequency and severity by implementing these nine objectives and communicating them as part of a formal SMART Goal.  To learn more about SMART goals, check out a 2008 Smart Goal posting from the Safety Net, or search online, keyword- SMART Goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).

Have a Happy, and SAFE, New Year!