Jobs in tourism and hospitality hold great appeal for young and new workers: the settings are dynamic, the work fast-paced, and many positions are entry level so newcomers can pick up skills as they go. However, these features can also challenge managers responsible for keeping workers safe.
"There are lots of jobs for young and new workers in this sector," says WSPS training specialist Scott Morrow. "Room attendants, front desk staff, housemen, banquet staff, kitchen staff, porters… and all of them pose hazards that managers have to be on top of."
With the Ministry of Labour’s four-month new and young worker inspection blitz now underway, Morrow offers five suggestions on how managers can protect workers and promote a sustainable health and safety culture.
1. Review your hazard assessments and controls, and conduct new assessments as needed. Are your inspection checklists up to date? Considerations include
physical agents, such as noise, vibration, extreme temperatures, and radiation. For example, if your business has kitchenettes, are physical agents present? A microwave means radiation. Are the door seals in good condition? If yes, move on. If no, make a note to replace them.
chemical agents. If there are chemicals in the kitchenette, are they properly labelled and stored?
biological agents. Is there mould in the fridge? The bathroom?
slips, trips, or falls. Is the floor clean and dry?
psychosocial issues. Probably not in a kitchenette, but possible in other locations where staff interact with customers and each other.
2. Pay particular attention to MSD hazards because tourism and hospitality work is often labour intensive and repetitive. Four examples:
banquet servers who set up and strip down tables in short order, and carry trays weighing up to 15 kilograms. Frozen shoulders and strained rotator cups are common injuries.
front desk staff who stand all day and use keyboards and screens placed low to avoid barriers between staff and guests.
receiving staff who unload and/or distribute bulk shipments daily, requiring bending, lifting and twisting.
kitchen staff who contend with slip, trip and fall hazards, cuts, and burn injuries. (Watch for more on restaurant safety for young and new workers in the July issue of WSPS Network News.)
If a task appears repetitive, or involves excessive or high contact force, look at how often someone performs the task. For instance, how many times is it performed in a 30-second period? For how long? What percentage of their workday does the task represent?
3. Evaluate what the hazards are costing you now in terms of first aid, medical care, compensation, physiotherapy, and higher premiums. Don’t forget indirect costs, such as lower morale, loss of products or services, and hiring, training, and paying replacement workers. These results can help you identify priorities and allocate resources.
4. Consider alternative ways of doing things. For example, could
banquet servers use food carts?
housekeeping staff use electric linen carts and bed lifters to prevent pushing, bending and lifting?
These alternatives may come at a cost, but so do MSDs.
5. Reinforce orientation and job-specific training by observing and coaching employees on how to perform tasks safely. For example:
before new hires start cleaning rooms, have them practice making a bed. Include safety considerations as you coach: "After you've made one side of the bed, stop and stretch before going to the other side…"
complement WHMIS training by taking workers through proper handling techniques for chemical products as they’re being used, what the MSDSs say, and how to put on personal protective equipment.
6. Encourage new and young workers to report job-related discomfort. Early reporting programs are particularly useful in tourism and hospitality, where people often do repetitive work. Ask them if they have any suggestions on how to do the job better. New and young workers may have a fresh perspective.
How WSPS can help
We offer a full range of resources - downloadable guidelines, training courses, videos, conferences and trade shows - on these and other topics:
Consultants and training specialists like Scott Morrow can also deliver customized assessment, program development and training services.