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The world at work: hotel cleaners
  1. Yu-Chin (Jerrie) Hsieh1,
  2. Yorghos Apostolopoulos2,3,
  3. Sevil Sönmez1
  1. 1Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality, and Tourism, Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Public Health Education, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Division of Infectious Diseases, Emory University School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yu-Chin (Jerrie) Hsieh, Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality, and Tourism, Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina Greensboro, 472 Bryan Building, 516 Stirling Street, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170, USA; y_hsieh{at}uncg.edu

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With tourism and hospitality representing the largest economic sector in the world,1 and more than 4.8 million rooms in accommodation establishments in the USA alone,2 hotel cleaners comprise a significant occupational segment. Regardless of geographic variation, hotel cleaners are predominantly women, immigrants and minorities working under adverse conditions such as long hours, ergonomic strain, chemical exposure, poor pay, low job control, job insecurity and a wide array of other physical and mental health risks.3–5 Such exposure has produced disproportionately high health disparities among service occupations, including repetitive strain injury, musculoskeletal disorders, allergies and psychological distress; hotel cleaners are both highly underserved and understudied as an occupational segment.6–8 In this paper, we will provide an overview of the plethora of work hazards encountered by hotel cleaners, and propose effective measures to reduce these hazards in order to improve hotel cleaners’ occupational safety and health.

Tasks of the job

Hotel cleaners perform cleaning tasks in lodging facilities, such as hotels, motels and resorts. Various interchangeable terms have been used to identity these labourers, including ‘maids’, ‘housekeepers’ and ‘room attendants’.9 By cleaning guests’ rooms, hotel cleaners make an important contribution to the core value of a hotel. Unlike cleaners in other private or commercial establishments, hotel cleaners are required to clean guest rooms to meet the quality standards of the individual hotel. They are also expected to exercise customer service skills when encountering hotel guests, and to contribute to customers’ overall satisfaction.10

The responsibilities of a hotel cleaner vary and generally include cleaning the guest rooms, hallways and other public areas in the hotel. The specific tasks involved include changing sheets and towels; making beds; emptying wastebaskets; dusting and polishing furniture and equipment; scrubbing sinks, taps, toilets, and bathtubs; washing and mopping bathroom floors; vacuuming floors; replenishing supplies; pushing heavy supply …

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