Hotel safety and security are paramount to the success of any hospitality establishment. Safety and security incidents go public quickly. This can badly affect your business’s reputation and immediately impact bookings. In addition, you’ll find it hard to draw quality employees. Read more in our latest post to make sure you’re up-to-date and following best practices in all arenas!
Hotel safety and security compliance are closely linked with the success of any hospitality establishment. With more confidence from employees and guests, a safe location attracts more skilled employees, travelers, and investors.
A hotel can seem at surface level like a great place to work, but if employees don’t feel safe, they’ll be searching for a new place to work quickly. In the same breath, a hotel can tick every box for a perfect holiday or business destination, but guests won’t return if they don’t feel safe.
Workers and guests would not recommend the establishment to others in such a case. Considering that online reviews and ratings largely influence employment decisions and travel accommodations, the perception of one or two employees or guests can significantly impact your hotel’s employer ratings and travel bookings.
Adhering to hotel laws and regulations is not only about enhancing the guest experience. It also improves the company culture, which can highly impact service levels. In addition, it protects the establishment against costly lawsuits and ill repute.
Hotel safety and security compliance should be a priority for every hospitality establishment. This guide highlights key hotel safety and security areas and important steps to ensure unwavering compliance with laws and regulations.
Why Is Hotel Safety and Security Important?
While investing in the proper hotel safety and security protocols may cost your establishment money, not doing this can cost you even more.
Ensuring your hotel remains safe and compliant protects you from physical damages, costs due to criminal activities, and lawsuits by employees, guests, or outsiders.
A good security system should be multi-faceted. Not only should it aim to improve the safety of your employees, but it should also help protect guests. In addition, you must protect your establishment’s physical resources, property, and assets.
If your hotel develops a reputation for recurring safety and security incidents, it will significantly affect employee turnover and staff morale. This can be incredibly difficult to overcome. It also affects guest bookings and damages your brand image.
Hiring and training new employees is costly and time-consuming, affecting both productivity and your budget.
Hotel Safety Laws and Regulations You Should Know and Understand
Hotel owners are responsible for protecting their employees and guests from accidents, hazards, and external dangers. As the establishment leader, you must know and understand hotel safety and security regulations.
While most of these laws relate to employee conduct, guest treatment, general safety protocols, and health standards, there’s also an increasing focus on employee safety.
On a local level, many states implement independent laws subject to fines and penalties. South Carolina, for example, requires all hotel and lodging facilities to have a viewport or similar provision that allows you to see outside the door without opening it.
Failure to comply can result in a fine, imprisonment, or both. Another example is a Texas law requiring hotels to submit water samples annually for bacteriological analysis.
On a national level, hotels are required to adhere to employee work safety laws, such as:
Proper sanitation and disinfecting
Appropriate and safe disposal of waste
Wearing protective gear such as gloves
Easy access to emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers
Appropriate hazard signage, such as when floors are wet
Because hotel safety laws vary between states and constantly change, remaining compliant can be a complex endeavor. Luckily, there are ways to simplify compliance management to prevent a host of problems later.
The Role of Hotel Panic Buttons
Hotel staff often work alone or in the presence of guests, putting them at risk of sexual harassment and violence. In fact, a pre-pandemic survey revealed nine out of 10 hospitality workers experience abuse in the workplace at some point in their careers.
Panic buttons, or employee safety devices (ESDs), are wearable devices that enable workers to signal an emergency discreetly. They have proven to be an effective measure to protect hospitality workers, which is why panic button regulations are becoming more common across the U.S.
Failing to equip at-risk staff with emergency devices poses a few problems for managers and owners. For instance, employees who don’t feel protected will seek employment elsewhere. Given the current labor shortage, hoteliers can hardly risk losing more staff.
Additionally, establishments may fail their quality inspection, incurring fines or legal consequences. Should a staff security incident happen, hotel owners who have not secured emergency protocols risk being held liable.
What Is a Hotel Panic Button?
A hotel panic button is a device employees can use to signal that they’re in danger by pushing a button. When the signal is triggered, the device instantly alerts the responding party (security and/or supervisors) of the staff member’s location. Hotel panic buttons may also be called ESDs or lone worker safety technology.
The devices are not available for one-off purchase by regular consumers, and they don’t set off a siren or audible alarm. Instead, they trigger a silent alert. They generally require hardware and software components and rely on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or cellular networks. Most devices don’t track employee locations unless triggered.
Types of Hotel Panic Buttons
There are a few different types of ESDs available. Some will be more suitable to certain hospitality establishments’ needs than others.
A wearable panic button is highly recommended to maximize hotel safety and security for your staff. A wearable device clips onto the employee’s attire or hangs around their neck on a lanyard.
Leaving a portable device on a housekeeping cart can render it useless if the worker isn’t standing next to it when the incident occurs. So, it’s best for workers to always have their panic buttons on them during their shift.
Full System Hotel Panic Buttons
Full systems require location beacon installation in each room and guest area. These devices are location-based. Once activated, they will identify the closest site beacon.
The silent emergency alert is then sent out with the precise location details, including room number and floor. The tracker is updated in real time if the employee changes location during the alert.
Hotels can configure their full system panic buttons to alert predetermined emergency contacts or local authorities. Note that they require a significant setup investment and a monthly fee for the service support.
Mobile Panic Buttons
Mobile panic button systems run on a mobile device application. Employees download the app, which then enables a one-push emergency alert activation.
The emergency alert will go to designated hotel security personnel and/or local authorities as configured by hotel management.
Mobile panic buttons use 4G technology to send instant location alerts and employee information. They support two-way communication and are a more cost-effective solution than full-system security devices.
While noise makers are the most cost-effective type of panic button, they do not meet hotel panic button laws requirements in certain states. For instance, they cannot detect the employee’s location or alert security staff.
The devices set off an ear-piercing sound. However, vacuum cleaners and television noise can drown them out. Concrete and even drywall building structures also mute the sound significantly.
Does the Law Require Hotel Panic Buttons?
While no national law mandating ESDs, many states and associations have passed panic button laws in the past few years to improve employee safety. State laws require hospitality institutions to equip employees with a wearable location-based panic button, although regulation specifics vary from state to state.
For instance, Miami, Florida regulations require hotels of all sizes to equip staff with ESDs. However, other jurisdictions only require hotels or motels with a certain number of rooms to implement panic devices.
Although many states don’t yet require these hotel safety and security measures, leading hospitality brands are building a strong reputation for prioritizing employee safety by rolling out panic button initiatives across their locations.
In addition to regular harassment training and strict safety protocols, brands are establishing themselves as sought-after employers in the hospitality sector by showing that they care about employee well-being with ESD investments.
How to Choose a Hotel Panic Button Solution
The deployment of panic buttons is a noteworthy step forward in hotel safety and security for employees who often work in isolation. Nevertheless, they are only an effective safety measure if they’re easy to use and integrate into your day-to-day business operations.
To ensure you choose the best solution for your establishment, look for the following must-have features:
1. Easy to Set Up and Maintain
A system that is painstaking to set up and maintain is more of a problem than a solution. Before choosing your hotel panic button provider, see what the setup entails, how long the setup will take, and whether the system requires regular maintenance or upgrades to remain effective.
Also, consider whether you require a specialist team to do the setup, maintenance, and training. Your in-house team may easily be able to launch and operate the system instead.
While everyone wants the maximum safety benefits from their system, they also want their panic system customized to their establishment’s unique requirements and preferences. Check that the system allows you to set up alerts and communication between parties to meet your needs.
As an establishment owner or manager, it’s important to have real-time insights into what’s happening on-site from anywhere. Choose a system that offers a dashboard with metric displays you can customize according to your priorities and view from anywhere at any time.
Since hotel panic buttons are quite a recent development, there are likely to be upgrades and changes in the future.
Therefore, choose a solution that runs on a flexible software system that won’t require an entire setup overhaul to adjust to changes and new technologies. Some providers update their systems automatically according to new regulations and feature developments.
5. Operational Integration
Choosing a system that integrates with staff schedules can streamline your operations and save significant time.
A hotel safety and security app that doubles as a scheduler allows managers to see employee availability and who is on shift. It also lets managers notify staff of new shift rosters directly through the app.
In addition, an all-inclusive hotel safety and security solution allows you to allocate housekeepers across rooms or assignments. Its scheduling features even facilitate predictive budgets based on customized metrics to help you track labor expenses as you build your schedules.
6. Location Tracking
Your chosen panic button system should allow you to pinpoint staff locations accurately. Some systems only offer location tracking once the emergency alert is activated, while others let owners and managers locate staff anytime during their shift.
The advantage of the latter is that supervisors can easily identify the closest employee to assist with a guest request or assign an urgent task without endlessly searching hallways.
Consider a tool that allows direct two-way chat communication. There may only be time to trigger an alarm during a safety emergency. However, during other scenarios such as medical emergencies, maintenance hazards, or urgent guest requests, a tool that doubles as a two-way chat device is necessary.
Live chat communication is instant but not as disruptive as outdated walkie-talkie systems. Better yet, a modern two-way direct chat tool allows workers to communicate in the language of their choice, while recipients can receive the message in the language they prefer. This eliminates misunderstandings due to language barriers.
The Importance of Hotel Safety Training
To run a successful hospitality business, owners and managers must maintain a positive work culture while guests receive the best possible service.
When workers are happy, it shows in their behavior and task execution. Similarly, investing in employee career development [[link to: A Guide to Hospitality Management Careers in 2023 and Beyond ]] and prioritizing their safety shows you care. As a result, you contribute to a positive work culture and build a loyal, long-term workforce.
Hotel safety and security training is essential to enhancing guest safety, ensuring safety regulation compliance, and boosting worker confidence to handle any situation. It also streamlines the rollout of new security measures and tools and educates staff on updated regulations. In addition, training is the ideal opportunity to address incidents and prevent recurrence.
Adequate and consistent staff training can also ensure ground-level employees are as familiar with the required hotel safety and security procedures as senior-level staff. Positions such as housekeepers and maintenance workers don’t typically require higher education or significant experience.
Training is key to enabling your employees to grow in their careers, knowledge, performance, and education while maintaining best practices and established procedures. It also minimizes incidences due to staff errors, which could turn into costly lawsuits for your business.
Although training modules may vary between facilities, these are important topics most establishments should cover as a basic standard:
Responding to trespassers, robberies, and violent behavior
Handling suspicious packages
Hotel security policies and correct procedures to follow
Vehicle security and handling unattended vehicles
Panic button systems
Asset protection, including phone and mobile device security, guest asset security, and high-security safes
Best Practices for Hotel Safety Compliance
While applying the same set of hotel safety and security practices across your locations is beneficial, it does not necessarily mean you will be compliant.
Since laws and regulations vary between states, ensuring every establishment meets safety requirements necessitates staying up to date on state-specific and national laws and then adjusting internal procedures accordingly.
Use these best practices as a blueprint to streamline hotel safety compliance across the board:
1. Cover the Basics
Before considering additional safety measures for your facility, ensure you have the basics covered. This includes provisions such as:
Access to first aid
Protective clothing for employees working with chemicals, cleaning equipment, maintenance, or garden tools
Minimizing electrical and fall hazards
Established hygiene protocols
Ergonomic work practices and equipment
Emergency exit access
Appropriate signage to identify hazards
2. Establish Health and Safety Checklists
While employees are well aware of certain daily checks that need to be executed, distractions or sudden interruptions often lead to missing a check or overlooking a maintenance issue.
Creating mandatory digital staff checklists is a sure way to identify hazards, prevent maintenance issues, and enhance safety across all departments. It also ensures compliance standards are met should inspectors pay a surprise visit to your establishment.
In addition, health and safety checklists identify risks and compliance shortfalls. They quickly reveal where staff training is required and areas that need attention. They also help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your team and business, allowing you to aim for perfection continually.
Although the items on each checklist will depend on your facility and the department in question, the following classic health and safety aspects should be confirmed on every list:
All exit doors are unlocked (opening shift)
Areas are free of pests and signs of pests
All staff are fit for work
There is sufficient ventilation
Health and safety posters are clearly visible
There are no water leakages near taps
The first aid kit is accessible and fully equipped
The fire evacuations procedure is visible
Emergency exit pathways are clear
Electrical equipment is turned off (on closing)
There are no potential hazards
Maintaining health and safety regulations requires various daily inspections and repair checks. Recording all maintenance checks gives an overview of the facility’s condition and identifies ongoing problem areas.
Maintenance checks are key to ensuring guest and employee safety. Common issues that pose high safety hazards include:
Faulty tools, machinery, and appliances
Trip hazards, such as damaged flooring and stray cables
3. Enlist a Qualified Expert
Staying on top of compliance and constantly changing laws across different locations is no easy task, especially when your hands are full.
A qualified expert will be up to date with the latest hotel safety and security regulations and can identify blind spots you may have overlooked. They also know what to look for in every department.
Health and safety compliance experts can help you fill training gaps and establish effective policies and procedures.
4. In-Person Check-Ins
While many establishments are implementing automated electronic check-ins, this is no reason to do away with front-desk staff entirely.
You may be able to reduce reception staff requirements, but you will still need front-of-house employees to welcome guests, offer assistance, and answer guest questions. It’s also essential to have front-of-house staff and security to watch for and identify red flags.
In-person interactions play an important part in learning about guests before issuing room keys. Invest in staff training to recognize suspicious behavior and deter unsafe situations.
Your concierge staff are in the perfect position to interact strategically with patrons, so knowing which questions to ask before completing reservations should form an important part of their training. This can help prevent fraud, identity theft, and inappropriate behavior toward other guests and staff members.
5. Prioritize Data Security
Data security is an increasing concern for hotels and guests. Remember, you are responsible for treating sensitive guest information, which usually includes identity and passport documents, as well as banking or payment information. In addition, you have a responsibility to safeguard employee data.
With most booking and payment procedures happening online, you must ensure strict data security procedures are in place throughout your systems. Keep online, and offline data protection updated and ensure your staff is well-educated on the consequences of data breaches, whether internal or external.
6. Evacuation Plans and Emergency Assembly Points
Many establishments focus safety training [[link to: Panic Buttons for Hotel Workers: A Building Block in Your Master Safety Plan]] on scenarios that involve staying indoors, such as tornado drills, earthquakes, or armed violence. However, the first decision in an emergency is whether to evacuate. For example, there’s an immediate need to evacuate the building in case of a fire or gas leak.
The only way to remain calm in an overwhelming emergency is to have well-practiced evacuation procedures in place.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires detailed procedures for evacuation with well-defined assembly areas. Companies with more than 10 employees must post a copy of the evacuation plan so it’s visible in an emergency. Significant staff or building layout changes necessitate writing a new plan.
Establish a set of level-headed leaders who can coordinate an orderly evacuation. Ensure every shift has a designated point of contact, coordinator, head counter, and first aid administrator:
Point of Contact: The point of contact will communicate with emergency services and make the call for an evacuation.
Coordinator: The coordinator completes a predetermined list of safety tasks. This will include shutting off gas lines, checking certain areas for stragglers, and securing the site.
Head Counter: The head counter is responsible for gathering everyone at the emergency assembly point [[link to: 5 Crucial Considerations for Your Hotel Property’s Assembly Point Plan]] and counting those who are there. Large facilities may have various assembly points and a head counter for each department. In this case, all head counters should report to a central authority.
First Aid Administrator(s): Several staff members should have basic first aid training to assist evacuees until emergency services arrive.
7. Reassess and Update
Once you have a defined emergency response plan in place, the work isn’t done. Assess the hotel safety and security plan periodically to determine shortfalls, make room for new requirements, and identify where training is lacking. Training should have ongoing refreshers and include updates on new regulations and amended company protocols.
Also, stay current on what’s happening at other nearby establishments. If an emergency, theft, violence, harassment, or other dangerous situation occurs in nearby hotels, make it a priority to implement precautionary measures at your own establishment.
The Role of Technology in Hotel Safety Compliance
Every single department in your facility must adhere to hotel laws and regulations. With vast operations to oversee, outdated manual processes and safety monitoring methods are time-consuming, prone to error, and often overlook details. This puts guests, staff, and your business at risk.
New digital compliance management tools significantly reduce errors and business costs while improving safety and minimizing risks. In fact, more leading establishments are turning to staff management and hotel operations software to facilitate compliance for a number of reasons:
To Simplify an Overwhelming Task
Your facility must follow hundreds of rules and regulations throughout various departments. Manual and paper-based systems are tedious, slow, error-prone, and easy to misplace.
From checklists to staff schedules, automating these functions saves your team hours of work and labor costs, reduces errors, and facilitates instant report sharing.
To Provide an Audit Trail
Since all data is digitally captured and stored, there’s no risk of losing checklists and other documentation. With immediate report sharing as soon as inspections are complete, you can instantly gain insight into the facility operations from anywhere with your mobile device.
For example, your staff may clock in and do their early morning checks via a digital checklist on a mobile device or tablet. They notice the kitchen cold room thermostat isn’t working as it should be and record this on their inspection checklist.
The report is immediately shared digitally, and maintenance can be dispatched to see to the problem in an instant. The digital tool shows who completed the task, and the assigned employee can also share updates and mark the problem as resolved once the task is complete.
To Improve Transparency and Team Accountability
Since the software captures real-time data with instant notifications, there’s greater transparency and accountability. Team members can no longer say they weren’t aware of a situation or pass the blame because tasks and communications are all linked to the responsible employee on shift.
To Save Time and Money While Enhancing Productivity
When new regulations are released, it’s easy to simply incorporate these into your existing toolkit. For example, COVID health and safety compliance checks could instantly be added to an existing digital checklist available to the entire team with the click of a button. No more endless paper trails, printing, and ensuring on-time distribution to different departments.
To Enhance Information Security
With compliance software, only authorized personnel have access to layered categories of information. This means your database and information are safe from landing in front of the wrong eyes. Additionally, modern cloud-based software offers extra security layers to safeguard company data.
Choosing the Right Compliance Software
When evaluating compliance software, you want to ensure it provides all the above benefits. Also, prioritize the following features:
An intuitive user interface
Customizable templates and checklists
Instant messaging across teams
A smart hospitality software solution enables you to gain insights in real time, ensuring you remain compliant while maintaining efficiency and productivity. This caliber of hospitality management software also allows you to:
Allocate rooms across housekeepers and designate maintenance task assignments.
View real-time room statuses.
Assign guest requests on demand and track task completion.
View inspection pass rates and “minutes per room” to determine efficiency and operational shortfalls.
Keep front-desk staff updated on room and maintenance statuses in real time to notify guests who are ready to check in or have in-room maintenance issues.
Send in-app messages, group notifications, and announcements.
Monitor your panic button system with on-premises staff tracking.
Record and manage safety incidents as they occur.
Track Performance and Compliance
Customize a dashboard for every establishment as well as your portfolio as a whole. This enables you to compare performance and determine which methods work best.
Gain compliance insights with automated, easy-to-interpret reports and metrics.
Problem-solve issues on demand before they become major operational obstacles (leaks, loose wires, drainage issues, etc.).
These capabilities help you better facilitate labor budgeting. Set up staffing schedules with customizable templates and copy them week to week with one click. You can see employee availability, instantly notify employees of new rosters, and track labor costs as you build the schedule.
With so much insight and functionality right at your fingertips, you can ensure consistent hotel safety and security compliance while saving time and money and improving efficiency.
Best Practices in Safety Training Drills and Simulations
After acquiring the right safety solution [[link to: You Now Have a Hotel Safety Solution... What’s Next?]], the next step in protecting your employees and improving workplace morale is to roll out the new system with safety training drills. This confirms to employees that you have their safety in mind and are looking out for them as part of your brand family.
Follow these best practices to enhance the power of your investment in employee safety solutions:
1. Test the Solution
Let your executive team test panic buttons and other new solutions before rollout. All the members on the executive level, even those who are not front-facing staff, should be well-versed with new safety and security protocols and usage. They should clearly understand why and how panic buttons will improve safety for the entire team.
2. Integrate Safety Training Into Staff Protocol
Procedural changes [[link to: The Hotel Change Management Process: Dispelling 7 Myths That Stifle Progress ]] and the use of new devices can be daunting. Try to keep your training environment, whether casual or formal, similar to the way you usually conduct training. You want staff members to feel comfortable and confident using their panic devices. Introducing the change in a comfortable, familiar way can help the team adjust.
3. Use a Combination of Training Methods
While panic buttons are simple to use, a chain of responses follows after the emergency alert is triggered. As with any emergency, employees need to know what to do, when, and how to minimize risks and maximize safety.
Start training in stages. Inform employees of the panic button rollout via email or a handout. Give them some background as to what it will entail and schedule a group meeting. Have a knowledgeable in-house or external trainer to go through all the new safety regulations in the group session. Be open to questions from your team.
Regardless of whether your team meeting was a great success, follow up with small group or one-on-one sessions. This is imperative to ensure every staff member feels confident using the panic button and realizes it’s for their safety and peace of mind.
In addition, create customized videos and make them available to employees as a recap of the new safety plan. This allows them to review protocols periodically. It’s also a good way for them to retain training information.
4. Conduct Drills and Simulations
Employees and security staff need to be well-trained to respond efficiently and appropriately in an emergency incident. Remind them it’s not the panic button that rescues them, but the people who respond to their call for help.
Cover the following questions in your executive training session with your ground-level staff. Ensure all parties clearly understand the answers in accordance with your company protocol:
What happens when an employee activates a panic button?
Who is responsible for responding?
How many responders should go to the scene?
How long should it take security responders to arrive at the scene?
Are there any tasks that could potentially prevent security staff from responding immediately?
What if different incidents occur simultaneously? Is there a hierarchy of priorities in such a case?
What methods are responders authorized to use when they arrive at the scene?
At what point should a responder notify authorities?
Who is responsible for notifying emergency personnel and authorities?
Employees will only be as good as their training when an emergency incident occurs. This means that while theoretical knowledge is necessary, drills are imperative. Conduct regular drills and work on reducing the time to different locations. Make sure responders know the shortest and alternative routes to get to various areas.
5. Implement Continuous Training and Refine Processes
Every new staff member should undergo the same training, including one-on-one sessions and simulations. Bi-annual meetings are highly recommended to keep employees across all levels updated on protocols and regulatory changes and provide feedback on any lessons learned.
These meetings also reassure your employees that you continuously watch out for their safety and aim to improve safety measures continuously.
Final Notes on Hotel Safety and Security
Hotel safety and security are paramount to the success of any hospitality establishment. Safety and security incidents go public quickly. This can badly affect your business’s reputation and immediately impact bookings. In addition, you’ll find it hard to draw quality employees.
Some of the easiest and fastest ways to improve your establishment safety are to:
Equip employees with wearable emergency safety devices
Conduct regular health, safety, and panic button training
Notify guests that your facility supports the use of panic buttons
Comply with your state’s laws and guidelines
Establish clear channels for reporting inappropriate behavior and abuse
Act quickly in emergencies
With the COVID-19 pandemic placing a high focus on hygiene and the alarming number of harassment cases highlighting employee safety, there’s been an increase in health and safety demands from guests, employees, and regulatory bodies.
In a fast-paced industry with a high demand for excellence, manual operations and compliance tracking just don’t cut it anymore. Smart solutions can play an instrumental role in helping you manage complex and diverse hospitality processes.
Digital hospitality management and compliance solutions enable hotel leadership teams to manage operations, maintenance, budgets, employee schedules, and guest requests. This all happens in a single platform, accessible from anywhere and at any time. In addition, data-driven reports provide on-demand budget and compliance insights for accurate decision-making.
With increased efficiency, reduced expenditures, and minimized safety risks, the right digital hospitality solution can help notably boost your bottom line.