Occupational Health News Roundup

I thought I was pretty well aware of the occupational hazards faced by hotel housekeepers: repetitive motions that can cause musculoskeletal disorders, exposures to chemicals and pathogens, and grueling work schedules contributing to stress and exhaustion. But the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case has made me aware of another hazard: what the New York Times' Steven Greenhouse describes as "sexual affronts":

But housekeepers and hotel security experts say that housekeepers have long had to deal with various sexual affronts from male guests, including explicit comments, groping, guests who expose themselves and even attempted rape.

The Wall Street Journal reports that days after Strauss-Kahn was charged with attempting to rape the woman cleaning his Sofitel hotel room, Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar was arrested on charges that he locked up, groped, and rubbed against a hotel housekeeper who delivered tissues to his room at New York's Pierre hotel. The Pierre has now suspended one of its supervisors - who evidently told the worker to wait until the next day to tell a security supervisor what happened - and agreed to give panic buttons to all room attendants. Officials from the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council union are urging such steps to protect hotel workers, and say that the Sofitel has agreed to supply panic buttons to attendants, too.

In other news:

BBC News: A group of more than 200 Japanese retirees, calling themselves the Skilled Veterans Corp, has volunteered to help shut down the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, noting that radiation exposures they receive are unlikely to cause them cancer within their remaining lifetimes.

Wall Street Journal
: After a combustible-dust explosion at its Apple-supplying Chengdu factory killed three workers, Hon Hai Precision Industries Co. - also known as Foxconn - decided to close all of its facilities that polish electronic parts and products until further inspections could be conducted.

Bloomberg: South Africa's highest court has cleared the way for former miners suffering from occupational lung disease to sue the companies that employed them. Under apartheid, mining companies were infamous for unsafe working conditions for thousands of workers from poor communities in South Africa and neighboring countries.

Baltimore Sun: Worker Brian Hallock was exposed to the butter-flavoring chemical diacetyl while working for a spice makers, and now suffers from the lung-destroying disease bronchiolitis obliterans. He sued chemical manufacturer and distributor Polarome International and has been awarded $814,500 - an amount reduced by a Baltimore County Circuit judge from the $5.4 million a jury previously awarded Hallock.

Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report: Washington State Department of Health researchers examining survey data find that 6.5% of US adults likely meet physical activity guidelines through occupational activity.

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When I was 17 years old, I worked for one summer as a hotel housekeeper at a Red Roof Inn in suburban Detroit. I always felt a little bit of tension when I first entered each room, wondering if someone (a man) was hiding in the bathroom or behind the furthest bed. In "my" low-cost hotel, we would always open the blinds wide open and prop the door open so you wouldn't feel as alone while tending to your cleaning. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for the Sofitel housekeeper who was attacked by DSK and hope she isn't attacked again on the witness stand by DSK's attorney.

By Celeste Monforton (not verified) on 07 Jun 2011 #permalink

Maybe housekeepers should work in pairs and do the rooms twice as quickly.

My mother said it wasn't the guests you had to watch out for, it was the male staff.