Compliance, common sense help ensure guest safety

Many of you will recall Anthony “Tony“ Marshall and his tireless work to assist the hotel industry in understanding the legal aspects of the business. Due to his lasting impact, we honor Tony annually at The Hospitality Law Conference in Houston by recognizing others with the Anthony G. Marshall award for their contributions and impact. Laws impacting innkeepers and their hotels have been enacted since the Middle Ages. As the popularity of travel and entertainment grew, so did the industry to accommodate the demand. There was a major increase in demand for locations, amenities and services as well as the laws to oversee them.

Today, it is fair to say that keeping up with the relevant federal, state and local laws, as well as the potential for liability, can be overwhelming at times. Below are the first half of suggestions focusing on guestrooms and broad compliance issues that can help provide a path to prevention and a measure of relief, with the second half focusing on employment and training to follow in a future issue.

The following list, which is not exhaustive by any means, has been aggregated as the industry has evolved:

  • Strictly comply with limited liability statutes (innkeeper statutes). You may need to retain safety deposit boxes at the desk; you may need more conspicuous signage.
  • Make sure your master code for in-room safes has been modified from the manufacturer’s default code.
  • Inspect your viewfinders (peepholes) for tampering. Consider providing a sticky pad in the room with a note to place one over the viewfinder for added privacy.
  • Have only a few rooms with bathtubs to meet actual demand. Install hand-held showerheads and seating in the showers.
  • Install and anchor grab bars appropriately in all baths and showers.
  • Install scald protectors on water outlets.
  • Add nightlights in guestrooms and bathrooms.
  • Regularly inspect all furniture for stability and carpets for rips.
  • Enable the guest to dial 911 from the in-room phone, and instruct your staff to call 911 promptly upon request. 
  • Inspect all security bars, deadbolts, etc. daily, and have door stops available at the front desk for guests that would like to use them.
  • Avoid using breakfast roomservice door hangers to place orders.
  • Pay attention to the air quality of your guestrooms, remain cautious when considering cleaning products, paint fumes, second- and third-hand smoke/vapor contamination, and routinely vacuum and clean upholstery and drapes. 
  • Have detailed protocol for pest control and bed bug prevention.
  • Avoid leaving unattended lists of guest names and room numbers at workout and spa access points.
  • Remove free weights (barbells and dumbbells) from unattended workout rooms.
  • Comply with the Graham Baker pool act.
  • Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, including training and material safety data sheets.
  • Comply with all building codes, including occupancy limits, carbon monoxide detectors, exit sign placement, emergency exit doors.
  • Comply with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS); as well as all other state and local data-privacy protection laws.
  • Remember we are not the insurers of guest safety; our obligation is to operate hotels with reasonable care. These suggestions, along with the next set, will help you achieve that threshold.