Coronavirus has affected every sector and hospitality has been affected significantly. Here are key risks for hospitality workers and strategies to keep them safe.
The hospitality industry in Australia has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of revenue and livelihood for establishments and workers is a major concern, with many hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses likely to close.
The coronavirus has been documented to spread faster than SARS or MERS and is highly contagious. Hospitality workers are especially vulnerable to infection thanks to the nature of the hospitality industry and its relationship with travel.
Consequently, it is especially critical that HR departments within the hospitality industry are aware of the risks to employees as well as what safeguards to implement.
Key Risks for Hospitality Workers
As stated above, hospitality workers face a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19.
One of the reasons for this is that the hospitality space typically accommodates a high amount of travellers. The other is that hospitality workers are often required to come into contact with items and surfaces that patrons have touched.
International travel has been a major carrier of the coronavirus and travellers are at a high risk of infection from COVID-19.
Hospitality industry staff typically come into contact with an extensive amount of international travellers. This number may be dropping due to worldwide travel restrictions. However, this is still a significant risk for hospitality workers.
Another key risk factor for those in the hospitality industry is other staff members. Because hospitality employees, in general, are at risk of infection, this heightens the risk of exposure through co-workers as well.
Room cleaning is another task requiring caution for hospitality staff. The coronavirus is able to survive on surfaces for extended periods of time. Therefore, if an employee touches a surface or object that has been contaminated by an infected guest, the employee can become infected as well.
Service delivery also carries an infection risk. Used plates, knives, cups, cutlery, and glasses can all be potential carriers of infection. When staff handles these items, there is a chance that if the patron is contagious, the employee will contract COVID-19.
Check-Ins and Payments
Hotel check-ins and restaurant payments are further opportunities for possible infection. During check-ins and payments, hospitality employees have to handle documents, bank cards, and cash belonging to customers.
If a customer is carrying the COVID-19 virus and has contaminated cards, cash or documents, the employee is at risk of contracting the virus.
Pens at reception are also a hotspot for infection. These should be sterilized before and after every use.
Handling guests' luggage items poses a key risk for hospitality staff. Employees handling luggage should sterilize their hands both before and after, and avoid contact with other areas of the body that are not as easy to sterilize while working.
Staff should also ensure that they do not touch their face or mouth while handling luggage.
As a high traffic area, lifts need to be sterilized thoroughly and regularly. Staff should sanitize their hands before and after touching lift buttons.
To main social distancing and reduce the number of people travelling in lifts at one time, signs should be erected stipulating that only 3-4 guest travel in a lift together.
Laundry is another area that poses an infection risk. Staff should wear gloves when handling laundry, and carry out thorough hand sterilization. Laundry items should not touch employees' bodies or clothing.
Laundry should be processed as soon as possible and run on hot cycles to ensure that if the virus is present, it is destroyed.
Strategies to Keep Workers in the Hospitality Industry Safe
It is evident that hospitality industry staff are at a heightened risk of infection from the coronavirus.
Because of this, while all industries need to take precautions, this is even more important for the hospitality industry. Here are some strategies that HR departments and businesses in hospitality can implement.
Inform Staff of the Importance of Hygiene
By this stage, most, if not all, of your employees will be aware of the hygiene measures recommended for the coronavirus.
However, it is still crucial that organisations officially inform staff of the importance of thorough hygiene and sterilization practices. You can do this by sending reminders, and putting up posters in staff rooms, entryways and toilets.
Establish a Set of Sterilization Protocols
Besides informing staff of personal hygiene measures, businesses in the hospitality industry also need to establish sterilization protocols.
By enforcing planned points at which staff must take sterilization measures you can minimize the risk of contamination among customers and employees.
For example, staff should sterilize their hands before and after tasks such as serving food, checking in clients, taking payments, or cleaning rooms or tables.
For a detailed guide on how to effectively sterilize the workplace, read this post.
Provide Access to Gloves, Masks, and Sterilization Products
Another important strategy for keeping hospitality staff safe is to provide them with access to gloves, masks, and sterilization products such as hand sanitizer.
It is also important to stress to employees the proper use of these items. For example, wearing a glove, but still touching one's face without sterilization still poses a contamination risk. The same applies to wearing a mask but taking it on and off with unsterilized hands.
Inform Staff When to Self Isolate
It is also crucial that hospitality workers are informed when they need to self-isolate.
As per government instructions, employees who have been overseas or in contact with someone diagnosed with the coronavirus in the last 14 days need to self-isolate.
Under no circumstances should a hospitality worker be permitted to stay at work if they have had contact with a diagnosed case.
Workers who have had contact or engaged in overseas travel should self-isolate for a minimum period of 14 days. After this point, if they have not developed any symptoms, they may be allowed to return to work.
If a hospitality worker develops symptoms corresponding to the coronavirus (fever, shortness of breath, coughing, etc.) they also need to self-isolate. Workers are required to report their symptoms to employers and inform them that they are going into self-isolation.
Once self-isolated, staff need to seek medical attention if they are displaying symptoms of the virus and isolate themselves from family members as well.
maintaining social distance in eating areas, bars and lobbies
To limit the chances of infection, it is advised that staff and patrons maintain a social distance between 1.5 and 2 meters. To facilitate this, hotels and guesthouses should use markers or stickers in lobbies and reception areas to avoid crowding at check-in.
In restaurants and eating areas, only every second table should be set, or the number of seats limited. The same applies to bars, where barstools should be spaced at a distance from one another.
Disclaimer: The advice and guidelines recommended in this article may change in the future as more and new information becomes available.