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    The Safest Way to Change a Light Bulb

    One degree does not sound like a large measurement, but it can be. If a plane is flying from Los Angeles to New York City and it is off by 3.5 degrees, the aircraft will never land in New York; it will land in Washington D.C. When a plane flies, it frequently receives course correction and adjustments due to wind, storms, and other airplanes.

    In many ways, the work we do in regard to property safety is no different. There are constant reminders needed and training required. Like an airplane that needs course correction, staff needs to receive safety course correction throughout their employment.

    Everyone knows that standing on a dining room chair to change a light bulb is unsafe—but how many times does this happen? There is often an urgent need to complete cleanings and inspections before guests arrive at a property, and staff may feel that there is no time to call for a stepladder.

    In scenarios like this, safety often is put aside for a brief moment, and the light bulb is changed. The guest experience is preserved and the staff members may even congratulate themselves on finishing their tasks on time. However, safety must remain front and center as we complete our responsibilities; if not, lives can literally become at risk.

    When you consider that most of the accidents that occur are preventable, you begin to see why training and retraining are important. In 2020, Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VHRP) focused on safety as a theme, to remind our industry to keep employee and guest safety at the forefront.

    As you evaluate your operation’s safety protocols, here are few critical items to review and consider:


    As the pandemic continues, more and more vacation rental companies are opening and getting busy again. Though we may be tired of hearing about COVID-19, we still must be diligent and vigilant in following COVID-19 protocols. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to have a professional, friendly relationship with your local health authority. They can provide you with all sorts of helpful information and resources to assist you as you manage through the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Personal protective equipment (PPE) is necessary to protect us not just from COVID-19, but also from the products or machinery we are using. Section eight of the Safety Data Sheet outlines the PPE required when a chemical product is used. When new employees start working, property managers should demonstrate use of PPE and review what PPE is required with each product as part of those new employees’ training. Employees should not be required to pay for PPE. Contractors generally provide their own PPE.


    As a guest, I have arrived late to a property several times, unable to see house numbers. Approaching a dark home, especially one with an uneven entry walkway, is disconcerting and uninviting. I have even approached the wrong property. Providing well-lighted house numbers allows the guest to find the property easier. It also helps local fire and ambulance crews quickly find the property.


    A cleaning professional, inspector or maintenance technician should never remove their shoes when entering a property. Shoe covers, whether disposable or reusable, are a better option than socks for keeping floors clean. Closed-toe shoes are a critical part of the PPE that individuals wear. Remember: no open-toed shoes (such as flip-flops or sandals) when working.


    Trip hazards come in many different forms, and falls can happen in many different ways. Examples of trip hazards are uneven sidewalks, boards on decks that bow up, extension cords in properties, extensions cords on vacuums, rugs with turned up corners—the list is endless. When a trip hazard is found, it must be reported so it can be fixed immediately. Trips and falls are preventable injuries.


    Every workers’ comp policy outlines how many steps on a step stool a cleaning professional can ascend. Also, when a stepstool or ladder is used, there must be three points of contact between you and it. This means two feet and one hand, or when both hands need to be free for a brief period, two feet and the body supported by the ladder. The three points of contact allow for maximum stability. The stepstool must not be rickety or unsafe in any way.


    Every department must have a first aid kit. Adhesive bandages and first aid ointment are the most common items needed, and these need to be readily accessible. I know of some companies that provide a small baggie of adhesive bandages to their staffs in case they should need them in the field.


    When disasters strike (manmade or natural), communication to staff is critical. Just as guests and employees need to know how the company is handling the situation, the employees and
    contractors need to know. Providing an employee hotline with a recorded message about the company, or sending out emails or text messages are fine ways to get the message to your teams. Employees will want to know when they can return to work and what the company is doing in regard to safety. In many regions, during a natural disaster employees or contractors may have issues with their own housing. A two-way dialog is needed so both the employer and employee can work together as they work through the disaster. 


    Every month, a safety topic should be highlighted and discussed with your team. Some workers’ comp policies provide monthly topics. Others allow the company to self-select the topics. However you come up with the topics, taking the opportunity to gather everyone (in person or virtually) to discuss the monthly safety topic can help keep everyone focused on safety.


    We need to be continually learning as our world changes around us. The challenges today must be solved with a historical perspective and forward-thinking action. This can only happen as we
    continuously feed our minds with information. “Safety First and Always” is a mantra we must adhere to as we focus on our businesses. Planning for safety protocols and education, training and retraining as needed will make it easier to prioritize safety while driving excellence in the rest of your business. Remember, there are no second chances when safety procedures and protocols are ignored.

    By Durk Johnson, Arrival Magazine, Issue 4, 2020.

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