Ergonomic hazards; slips, trips and falls and exposure to toxic cleaning chemicals are just a few of the occupational health risks faced by the nation’s 400,000 hotel cleaners, according to a partnership put together by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to improve workplace practices. 

The partners, collectively known as the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), collaborate to identify critical workplace issues in industry sectors. NORA has released a set of recommendations aimed at improving safety and health among hotel cleaners, who are mostly immigrant and minority women. 

According to a recent academic study cited in DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2011-194, , housekeepers had the highest rates of injury of all jobs studied in sam­pled hotels. Among that group, Hispanic females had the highest rate of injury 

The publication identifies the following hazards for hotel cleaners:


  • Ergonomic hazards that include bending, pushing carts, and making beds
  • Trauma hazards that include slips, trips, and falls
  • Respiratory, dermal, and possibly carcinogenic hazards from chemicals in cleaning products
  • Mold and microbial contaminants
  • Infectious agents
  • Occupational stress due to heavy workloads, lack of adequate supplies, job insecurity, low pay, and discrimination

In order to reach goals that include reducing the incidence and severity of occu­pational injuries, illness and death among hotel workers by 20%, NORA has issued the following recommendations to groups such as unions, worker organizations and hotel/motel associations:

  • Identify and evaluate hazards and adopt inter­ventions to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the hotel environment.
  • Evaluate the quality and ensure maintenance of equipment used in hotel cleaning operations.
  • Encourage the use of ergonomic carts and vacuum cleaners, and long-handled tools like mops and scrub brushes; and inform suppliers about the best equipment for cleaners.
  • Conduct research on guest practices that would improve the work environment for room cleaners.
  • Partner with OSHA, NIOSH, labor, and oth­ers to study why disparities exist in injury rates among room cleaners and what remedies are effective, and to quickly implement available remedies.
  • Lead a work group to address priority issues related to a strategic goal to help inform em­ployers and policy makers about hazards and interventions.
  • Assist in the design of an effective system to track occupational injuries and illnesses in the hotel/motel industry.
  • Represent a partner organization to work on a goal implementation plan.
  • Provide input to the NORA Coordinator on the implementation of goals ( and suggest important issues to consider for future goals.