Accident prevention and liability awareness

Like any business, hotels must be aware of liability. The most common type of liability they face is in the form of slips and falls, which can be combated through the use of signs in problem areas (near ice machines and pools, for example), while liability over the safety of guests’ personal property comes in a close second.

Adam Docks, a partner at international law firm Perkins Coie, in Chicago, said that falls are a constant concern for hotels, and he added that hotels have many liabilities that have been around for some time and are becoming more prolific due to an increase in guests resulting from an increase in travel. 

Harry Gorstayn, GM at the Radisson Blu Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minn., said technology has made protecting guest property easier than ever before, as it is harder now to get into guestrooms without a keycard. 

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“Simple things, like locking the doors to event space when guests aren’t in there, can go a long way for avoiding incidents,” Gorstayn said. “Signs are also very important; if you have enough repetition, eventually most guests will read or listen to them. Also, having brass signs on the floor can be effective.”

Gorstayn said preventing kitchen fires is also a major component of hotel liability. Oil buildup in kitchen equipment can lead to fires that, when triggered, can’t be controlled. 

“Once per month, inspect and clean your kitchen hoods to keep combustibles away from the ceiling,” Gorstayn said. “Monthly safety meetings, sprinkler tests and alarm drills can also keep the back of the house safe. These tests also allow you to see how employees react in an emergency, and clue you in on who needs more training.”

To manage liability on the employee side, Docks recommends that hotels frequently investigate updates on laws pertaining to minimum-wage increases, especially in urban markets. 

“There are ongoing updates with respect to labor laws, and hotels have to stay on top of these laws,” Docks said. “In this administration, there have been a number of initiatives that are more labor-friendly. Presumably, there are also additional costs to be aware of.”