By Josh Kerst, CPE
Hotel owners and employers should be on alert for ergonomics inspections at their properties, as OSHA has been “checking-in” to this industry for over two years. The absence of a federal ergonomics rule has not deterred OSHA from pursuing ergonomics enforcement under the general duty clause 5(a)(1). The most recent target has been the Hyatt hotel chain and after inspections at facilities in Illinois and Texas in April, OSHA issued a “5(a)(1) letter” to the CEO of Hyatt Hotels, indicating that OSHA believed there were ergonomic risks with selected tasks (i.e., excessive manual material handling and WMSD risks associated with room cleaning and making beds) and daily work activities of the company’s housekeeping staff.
The effect of this OSHA letter is that the entire Hyatt hotel chain is now “on notice” that a General Duty Clause citation is likely for any subsequent inspections. In addition, the letter now categorizes the ergonomics hazard as “recognized” for purposes of future enforcement which obligates the hotel chain to follow OSHA’s recommendations or risk a citation under subsequent inspections. It seems clear that OSHA would likely take the same position with other hotel operators and has effectively put entire industry “on notice.” Compounding the complexity of this situation are changes to OSHA’s enforcement policies that now extend those site findings which would require company-wide abatement provisions in any potential settlement agreement.
The legal battle continues to be played out with Hyatt but it seems clear that OSHA’s intent is to check-in to this industry with no known departure date.