Hotel housekeepers alarmed by bloodborne pathogen exposure
Housekeeping department employees of the Sofitel Los Angeles hotel have filed a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) alleging that they do not have the proper equipment to safely handle linen contaminated with blood or to remove used syringes and needles they encounter in guest rooms.
Due to the number of hotel guests whose stays are related to medical treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center across the street, employees at the Sofitel Los Angeles fear they have higher-than-typical risks of occupational exposure to blood-borne pathogens.
In their Cal/OSHA filing, the Sofitel Los Angeles employees claim they routinely handle bloodied bed linens. Housekeeper Silvia Alvarez said that when she finds bloody sheets, “I use my gloves and then remove them and put them in the dirty linen.” She said she throws sheets out “sometimes if there’s too much [blood].”
Sharps injuries a concern, too
Workers also claim they pick up used syringes and needles, and see bandages, gauze, medicines, and other extraordinary indicators of guests’ medical treatment and possible illness as they perform their normal job duties.
Sofitel Los Angeles does not provide workers with sharps boxes to safely dispose of the used needles and syringes they encounter in guest rooms. Earlier this year, housekeeper Maria Galvez put the used needles she found in a guest room in an empty plastic water bottle and asked her supervisor what she should do with them. “And after that, I don’t know what happened,” Galvez said, though she shared a photo of the water bottle with the needles in it.
Workers fear they are at risk of contracting hepatitis B or other blood-borne pathogens because they do not have proper equipment or adequate training. In addition to concerns about needles, the hotel does not provide workers with disposable latex or nitrile gloves for changing bloodied bed linen. Workers say that the yellow rubber gloves the hotel provides for jobs like cleaning bathrooms are inadequate.
From hospital to hotel
Sofitel Los Angeles also does not inform workers before they work in rooms occupied by Cedars-Sinai hospital patients. Housekeeper Silvia Alvarez said there are no special rooms or floors for the guests who are hospital patients; they stay “wherever.” Housekeeper Maria Galvez said she only knows if a guest is a hospital patient after she enters the room.
Every California employer is required maintain procedures for correcting unsafe or unhealthy conditions and work procedures. In workplaces where workers can be reasonably anticipated to have contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials, California OSHA regulations require employers to observe “universal precautions” to help workers “prevent contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials.” The regulation goes on to state, “under circumstances in which differentiation between body fluid types is difficult or impossible, all body fluids shall be considered potentially infectious materials.”
Click here to read follow up article, SoCal hotel disputes employee safety claims.