Compliance: Common Sense Approach to Ensure Guest Safety

Most of you will recall Anthony ” Tony ” Marshall and his tireless work to assist the hotel industry in understanding the legal aspects of the business and ensuring guest safety. 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. There was a major increase in demand for locations, amenities, and services as well as the laws to accommodate these accommodations.

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. Hopefully, the suggestions below will provide a path to prevention and a measure of relief, with the second half focusing on employment and training to follow in a future post.

The following list of suggestions, sadly, not exhaustive by any means, has been aggregated as litigation has ensued and the industry has evolved:

  1. Strictly comply with limited liability statutes (aka: innkeeper statutes). You may need to retain safety deposit boxes
    at the desk; you may need more conspicuous signage.
  2. Make sure your master code for “in room” safes has been modified from the manufacturer’s default code.
  3. Inspect your viewfinders (aka peepholes) for tampering. Consider providing a sticky pad in the room with
    a note to place one over the viewfinder for added privacy.
  4. Have only a few rooms with bathtubs to meet actual demand. Install hand held shower heads and seating in the showers.
  5. Install and anchor grab bars appropriately in all baths and showers.
  6. Install scald protectors on water outlets.
  7. Add night lights in guest rooms and bathrooms.
  8. Regularly inspect all furniture for stability and carpets for rips.
  9. Enable the guest to dial 911 from the “in room”phone, and instruct your staff to call 911 promptly upon request.
  10. Inspect all security bars, deadbolts, etc. daily, and have door stops available at the front desk for guests that would like to use them.
  11. Avoid using breakfast room service door hangers to place orders.
  12. Pay attention to the air quality of your guest rooms, remain cautious when considering cleaning products,
    paint fumes, 2nd and 3rd hand smoke/vapor contamination, and routinely vacuum/clean upholstery and drapes.
    As air quality becomes more and more important to guests, in addition to guests who suffer from breathing
    disorders, allergies, and asthma, these practices become essential to your guest experience. Hold non-compliant
    guests accountable, and try to create safe methods that allow fresh air into the room.
  13. Have detailed protocol for pest control and bed bug prevention.
  14. Avoid leaving unattended lists of guest names and room numbers at
    workout and spa access points.
  15. Remove free weights (barbells and dumbbells) from unattended workout rooms.
  16. Comply with the Graham Baker pool act.
  17. Comply with the ADA.
  18. Comply with OSHA requirements including training and MSDS.
  19. Comply with all building codes including occupancy limits, carbon monoxide detectors, exit sign placement, emergency exit doors (CO
    alarms installed where appropriate with portable, battery operated alarms available at front desk).
  20. Comply with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (aka PCI-DSS); as well as all other state and perhaps
    locally enacted data privacy protection laws.
Stephen Barth

Stephen Barth, an attorney, professor, and author of Hospitality Law, Intelligent Emotions: On Self Responsibility, Owning Our Emotional Power and Changing Our Reactions, and co-author of Restaurant Law Basics, is well-versed in the world of hospitality law. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Houston, Conrad N. Hilton College, he was an adjunct professor at Texas Tech University. With over twenty years of experience in hospitality operations, including line positions, management, and ownership, Professor Barth is a regular guest speaker covering a variety of issues for national, regional, and local industry associations and businesses. Professor Barth is a member of a select group of instructors worldwide designated by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association to instruct its Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE) program. Recently, he has been quoted in many national publications including: Hotel News Now, Leisure & Hospitality International, USA Today, Successful Meetings, NBC News, and the Los Angeles Times.

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