Monthly Archives: October 2010

Hotel Industry Employee Risk Management: Employee’s Use Of Stairs In Multi-Story Hotels Subject Them To “Significantly Greater Risk Of Injury” And Result In Higher Workers’ Compensation Benefits

“Because the employees’ periodic breaks were mandatory, Phillips was required to use the staircase six times during each shift. In fact, in its opening brief, Rio calculated that during the course of Phillips’ 17-year employment, she traversed the stairs approximately 25,000 times,’
“…the court concluded that the frequency with which Phillips was required to use the stairs subjected her to a significantly greater risk of injury than the risk faced by the general public. Consequently, Phillips should be awarded benefits, the high court wrote…”

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that although employers are not “absolutely liable” when employees are injured “on the job,” companies should apply the “increased risk test” to determine whether they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

The justices explained the increased risk test in Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino v. Phillips. According to court documents, Kathryn Phillips was a poker and blackjack dealer at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. While taking her mandatory 20-minute break during her usual eight-hour shift, she walked down the stairs to the employee break room, slipped, and fractured her ankle.

Her treating physician determined her injury was work related, and Phillips had surgery to repair her ankle. But Rio’s third-party administrator, Sedgwick CMS, denied her claim saying Phillips did not prove the injury arose out of her employment.

“The types of risks that an employee may encounter during employment are categorized as “those that are solely employment related, those that are purely personal, and those that are neutral,” the high court said.




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Hospitality Industry Fire Risk Management: “Security Alert! Check The Security Of Your Hotel’s Knox Boxes Frequently” By Todd Seiders, CLSD, Petra Risk Solutions

Risk Management

by Todd Seiders, CLSD

Check your Knox Boxes! A Knox Box, known officially as the KNOX-BOX Rapid Entry System, is a small, wall-mounted safe-like box that holds building keys for firefighters and EMTs to retrieve in emergencies. In many jurisdictions, the local Fire Department requires that a Knox Box be located outside of your hotel (check with your local Fire Department for requirements; some jurisdictions may not require hotels to have one), for their use only, in the event of an emergency. The Knox Box has a complete set of the hotel’s master keys locked inside this box.

Knox Boxes simplify key control for local fire departments. Local fire companies can hold master keys to all such boxes in their response area, so that they can quickly enter a building without having to force entry or find individual keys held in deposit at the fire station. Sometimes Knox Boxes are linked via radio to the dispatch station, where the dispatcher can release the keys with telecommunication tone signaling over analog phone lines.

Knox Boxes have advantages and disadvantages for both business owners and emergency responders. The main advantage for their use is that they cut fire losses for building owners since firefighters can more quickly enter buildings without breaking doors or windows. The disadvantage of the system is that it provides a single point of failure for security. If the key to a district’s Knox Boxes is stolen or copied, a thief can enter any building that has a Knox Box. Likewise, if the locking mechanism or structural integrity of the box is compromised, a thief can gain access to the keys and hence access to the entire building. For this reason some building owners wire Knox Boxes into their burglar alarm systems so that opening the box trips the alarm, thus negating its use in facilitating clandestine entry.


Todd Seiders, CLSD, is director of risk management for Petra Risk Solutions, which provides a full-range of risk management and insurance services for hospitality owners and operators. Their website is: Todd can be reached at 800-466-8951 or via e-mail at:


Knox Boxes are an actual miniature safe designed to withstand tampering and are built in a variety of sizes ranging from a box designed for two keys to one designed to hold hazardous material information and multiple keys. Prices start at approximately $250.00. Most Knox Boxes are mounted onto a wood or steel mounting with the screws or bolts covered.

Yet, this does not mean that Knox Boxes are indestructible or cannot be removed from their mounting with force. We have recently seen many of these Knox Boxes forcefully removed from their wall mountings and stolen from the property. In several cases the thieves then returned to the hotel with the master keys and stole items.

In one theft at a hotel the thieves specifically used the master keys to access the storage room for the hotel night audit packets and guest files. The thieves stole hundreds of night audit packets containing the names, addresses and credit card numbers of previous guests. Obviously, hotels can be held liable for breach of guests’ personal information or loss of their credit card data.

So, what should hoteliers do? Secure your night audit packets/files in a secure room that has a hard metal key, rather than a magnetic key card lock. There should only be one or two hotel employees that have access to the night audit storage room, and storage room keys. Secure these files separately, and control all access to them. DO NOT include a key to this storage room in your Knox Box, or on your “master key ring”, or even leave this key unattended in a key box. The night audit file storage room key should be kept separate from all other keys.

As for the hotel’s Knox Box, local ordinances may require that your property have a Knox Box in the event of an emergency. If so, follow these suggestions:

  • Check that your Knox Box is solidly secured to its location, using numerous heavy duty screws or bolts to make it extremely hard to remove.


  • Relocate your Knox Box to a well lit area, and in view of security cameras, if your property has them.


  • Add a visual inspection of the Knox Box to your property inspection form and security tours so it will be inspected on a regular basis. This will let you know in a timely manner if someone has tried to remove it, or has in fact actually removed or damaged. Immediately re-key the entire hotel if the Knox Box is stolen or the keys inside come up missing.


Pictured above: Here’s what some of the various Knox Boxes look like.

(Todd Seiders, CLSD, is director of risk management for Petra Risk Solutions, which provides a full-range of risk management and insurance services for hospitality owners and operators. Their website is: Todd can be reached at 800-466-8951 or via e-mail at:  

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Hotel Industry Security Risk Management: “Fingerprint Entry Systems” Are Starting To Become More Common As A “Reliable” Guest Security Option

If you want to get into your room at New York’s SoHo Loft, you’re going to have to lift a finger. The seven-room hotel has a fingerprint entry system. Guests touch the door pad then enter a code for extra security. Kimpton’s 190-room Nine Zero Hotel in Boston was the first hotel to install a biometric iris scanner back in 2004, but only guests of the 1,065-square-foot Cloud Nine penthouse suite have to bat their eyelashes.

Those plastic key cards that once seemed so innovative will soon go the way of the actual key. The new thing is contact less Smartcards and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) cards that need just be waved to allow room access.

Much like the cruise world’s one card system, these cards may soon make hotel stays easier by allowing guests to pay for services, as well as to check-in and check-out, through a single device. Travelers may even be able to save preferences on the cards, from pillow type to floor choice. RFID cards are already in use at New York’s Plaza Hotel, and Starwood Hotels are considering introducing them into their hip Aloft and Element properties.

But travelers worried they will constantly have to traipse back to reception every time they lose their card need not despair. Security systems in some hotels do away with cards altogether.

 “In addition to Radio Frequency Identification, there are also systems that use a smartphone, such as an iPhone,” says Frank Wolfe, CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals. “When a guest checks into a hotel and provides their phone number, they get an encrypted sound code via text message.” You can then play back the code to unlock your room door.

Yet more card-free security systems are on the way. They may still be minor blips on the greater hotel horizon, but biometric systems that seem right out of Mission Impossible have been introduced in the U.S. If you want to get into your room at New York’s SoHo Loft, you’re going to have to lift a finger. The seven-room hotel has a fingerprint entry system. Guests touch the door pad then enter a code for extra security. Kimpton’s 190-room Nine Zero Hotel in Boston was the first hotel to install a biometric iris scanner back in 2004, but only guests of the 1,065-square-foot Cloud Nine penthouse suite have to bat their eyelashes. The uses for biometrics don’t have to stop at the guestroom door, either. The Nine Zero also uses the technology to make the property safer all round, as it has installed the LG IrisAccess 3000 at the employee and delivery entries to the hotel, as well, meaning that non-staff members and intruders can’t access the property.

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Hotel Industry Guest Relations: Hotels Will Increasingly Opt For “Check-In Kiosks” To Provide “Cozy, One-On-One Welcomes” To Improve Guest Satisfaction

 The key is removing the barrier between the guest and the hotel — be it for better service, streamlining, experience or profit. The sitting-behind-a-desk days are not what travelers want,” Sinclair said. “However the hotel chain chooses to roll it out — kiosks, check-in pedestals, tablets or iPads — you walk to the lobby and whoever you speak to can handle your entire needs …

“Traditional front desks, however, may be destined for a scrap heap teeming with bygone lobby fixtures like key boxes, desk bells and hat racks. Some mid-market chains already are dumping imposing check-in counters for cozy, one-on-one welcomes or for virtual check-ins through kiosks or mobile devices.

When Sherry Richert Bulel entered the Andaz West Hollywood in February, she was greeted by a “host” who offered her wine, a comfy chair and room selection via his laptop. “There was no looming desk between us to indicate that he was the hotel staff and I was the guest,” said Richert Bulel, author and founder of, which creates tribute books for special occasions. “I immediately relaxed.”

In addition to Andaz, Courtyard by Marriott has renovated 201 of its 800 U.S. lobbies, swapping its standard front desks for smaller “welcome pedestals” that allow clerks to step out to meet patrons, then step back to check them in. Courtyard will finish the makeover by 2013.

Meanwhile, Starwood has used one of its urban-style Aloft hotels to test a tech-driven welcome service. Several thousand customers who already carried Starwood Preferred Guest cards were texted their room numbers before arriving at the Aloft Lexington in Massachusetts, allowing them to bypass the front desk and head to their floor. 

FITs, or Free Independent Travelers. In general, FITs have above-average income, prefer to roam alone, in small groups or as couples, avoid tourist tracks, research their explorations via their mobile devices, and spend freely. They are, Sinclair said, “now the dominant market traveler being sought after by most major brands.” FITs, experts believe, prefer hotels that offer texted check-in codes or lobby kiosks that spit out room keys. So how long until old-school front desks vanish from most or maybe all mid-market hotels?

“Within the next 36 months,” forecasts James Sinclair, principal of OnSite Consulting, a national restaurant and hospitality consulting company. His clients include W Hotels and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Related: Tech-savvy travelers embrace self-service model “ You sit on a couch and wait your turn rather than (stand) behind Bob who is arguing that he didn’t have the salt-and-honey peanuts from the minibar.” Viewed from the bottom line, chopping the front desk also “makes sense for the hotel in terms of profit maximization,” Sinclair said. “As the hotel market has become more competitive with the various online practices and the need to refocus on margins, there are only a few areas that can be looked at.” Number one: payroll. No front desks, or smaller versions, could allow hotels to operate with fewer employees. What’s next? No beds? Then again, that’s the chief reason why some mega-mile travelers — like comedian Dan Nainan — hate the downsizing of check-in counters. Spending huge chunks of their lives on the road, they befriend hotel employees and feel somewhat protective of them. “If I ever see a hotel without a front desk, I can guarantee you that that is a hotel I would never, ever, ever patronize,” said Nainan, who flew 200,000 miles last year. “I will turn right around on my heel and march out of that place so fast I will actually do a wheelie. What brilliant cost-cutting move will they think of next? How about hotel rooms with no beds? Imagine the savings!” But hotel chains say de-emphasizing, shrinking or removing the front desk simply gives their guests more options. Further, the tactic is part of a larger shift, they say, to entice patrons to spend more time — working or relaxing — in attractive, compelling lobbies. Courtyard’s fresh, first-floor face, which costs the chain about $750,000 per makeover, includes free WiFi, “media pods” where patrons can plug in laptops and watch TVs, plus a 57-inch, LCD touch screen — the “GoBoard” — that provides news, weather, and directions to local attractions. An eat-in bistro — “Starbucks meets Panera,” they say — offers breakfast, then later a casual dinner and cocktails. About three years ago, Courtyard’s lobby designers used Styrofoam cutouts to simulate changes — including the “welcome pedestals.”

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Hospitality Industry Food Safety: U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA) Is Recommending Restaurant Operators To Employ A Certified Food Protection Manager

 Calling for continued improvements in food safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that all restaurants and retailers employ certified food protection managers, according to a report by Nation’s Restaurant News.

Donald Kraemer, the FDA’s acting deputy director for operations, told Nation’s Restaurant News that the agency plans to add a provision requiring restaurants to employ certified food protection managers to a future edition of the federal “FDA Model Food Code.”

The recommendation, which was met with support from both the National Restaurant Association and the National Council of Chain Restaurants, came Friday as the agency released the results of a 10-year study of retail food risk factors. While the study found overall improvement, the FDA said the presence of a certified food protection manager correlated with significantly higher compliance levels with food safety practices, the report stated.

“In looking at the data, it is quite clear that having a certified food protection manager on the job makes a difference,” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. “Some states and localities require certified food protection managers already, and many in the retail industry employ them voluntarily as a matter of good practice. We think it should become common practice.”

The FDA has no timeline for adding a food protection manager provision to the Food Code, but Kraemer said the agency will work to that end through normal channels involving the Conference for Food Protection (CFP). The CFP provides the FDA with input and recommendations, and is made up of members of foodservice trade groups, the food industry, government, academia and consumer organizations. The group meets biennially and convenes next in 2012.

NRA spokesman Mike Donohue said 24 states currently require restaurants to have certified food protection managers. He added that in the other 26 states, some local jurisdictions may have requirements for the employment of such specialized employees, or the state may require such a hire for a specific restaurant or chain that has had food safety problems.

Taking the concept further, some states — including Oregon and, beginning next year, California — require all food handlers to undergo basic safety training and pass an exam attesting to their understanding of the coursework, according to the report.

The FDA’s 10-year study of retail food risk factors found full-service restaurants with certified food protection managers had a 70-percent compliance rate with food safety practices, vs. a 58-percent compliance rate at restaurants without such an employee. In delicatessens, compliance was 79 percent with a manager, compared to 64 percent without, the FDA reported.

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Hotel Industry Pool Safety Risk: FEMA To Enforce “No Glass Zone” Rule That Prohibits “Glass-Enclosed Pools” In Florida

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, doesn’t allow oceanfront hotels to close off their pools with glass walls for the winter. This year, the agency will make sure that rule is enforced, whether the city and the hotels like it or not.

In response to FEMA, the manager of the Myrtle Beach Hampton Inn isn’t sure what to do to close off his outdoor pool to make it an indoor pool this winter.

If he puts up the same glass walls the hotel has been using for years, he’ll be in violation of the FEMA rule. But if he doesn’t, the hotel will lose customers.

“It’s too cold to swim in the wintertime, even though the pools are heated. It needs to be enclosed,” said manager Tom Moore.

The hotel could buy Plexiglas or vinyl enclosures that FEMA allows, but Moore says that would cost up to $20,000 the hotel hasn’t budgeted for.

A couple of years ago, FEMA first became aware of the glass walls used by oceanfront hotels and decided they were hazardous, but the rule wasn’t enforced.

Then this summer, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce announced it had pushed a bill through the U.S. House of Representatives to allow the enclosures. Hoteliers thought the problem was solved and that was the end of it.

But the bill never came up for a vote in the Senate, the Senate has adjourned until mid-November and FEMA has now told the city of Myrtle Beach: time’s up, enforce the rule or else.

“We’ve sent letters to all the hotels that are affected, saying November first is when the rule takes effect. You will not put up your temporary pool enclosures that violate FEMA’s regulations then or expect the consequences,” said city spokesman Mark Kruea.

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Hotel Industry Guest Issues: Hotel Guest Databases Such As “” Can Assist Hotel Management In Avoiding “Problem Guests”

“Many hotels now refuse guests based on their perceived or real behavior,” the story says. “For example many hotels in Florida and the Caribbean will not accept reservations for “Spring Break” groups. In Europe, hotels shy away from groups of British Soccer fans.”

Hotels are increasingly interested in swapping information with each other about “bad” guests, just like guests do with “bad” hotels using TripAdvisor, according to Hospitality Business News.

Most hotel guests, naturally, are good.

But when hotels do encounter guests who, for instance, call their credit card company to reverse a charge, assault another guest or even smoke in a non-smoking area, they just might wind up in the type of database maintained by

  • What private information is kept on me?: The database contains a guest’s name, address, and phone number only, as opposed to more personal information such as credit-card number, race or religion. The information is kept in a database with “bank-level security” and is not available to the public.
  • Can hotel managers see the full list?: Hotel managers can’t scroll through the database to see who’s on it. They can only search for specific names and receive a “Match” or “No Match” result.
  • Is this a blacklist?: The company doesn’t call the database a “blacklist” because members “do not have the ability to advise other accommodation providers to refuse service for a guest.” It’s designed to help the next hotel “make an informed decision on how to best prepare for that guests arrival.”
  • What offenses land me on the list?: The company tracks five categories of behavior, with the worst being stealing, assault and non-payment. Lesser offenses would include actions such as smoking in non-smoking areas or using facilities such as the swimming pool or tennis court after hours. “Someone who accidentally knocks over a lamp and offers to pay for it should not be placed in the same category as someone who purposefully trashes a hotel room,” the company says.
  • Who reports me? One person per company or hotel can report a guest for an offense, and requires that person be a senior manager. “This stops any malicious reporting by the night watchman, for example,” the company tells Hospitality Business News.
  • How long will I be on the database?: A person could stay on the database for as long as four years.
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    Hospitality Industry Information Technology: Small- To Medium-Sized Hotel Owners Should Support A “Shared-Services” Model For Data And Call Center Services


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    Hospitality Industry Health And Safety: Use Of “Improved Safety Practices” And “Older Workers” Contribute To A Decrease In Workers Comp Claims

    “Indemnity and medical severity for workers compensation claims continued to rise in 2009…

    “…the frequency of workers comp claims dropped 4% in 2009 following a 3.4% decrease in 2008. A downward trend in claims frequency that started in 1991 likely will continue through this year, NCCI said…”

    Factors such as increased use of robotics, improved safety practices and an aging workforce have contributed to the continuing frequency decrease, NCCI said.

    Complex claims, such as those related to carpal tunnel syndrome and lower-back issues, declined more than average during the past five years, NCCI added.

    Increasing claim costs, however, have partially offset the decline in frequency. Average indemnity costs increased about 4.5% in 2009 despite a decline in average weekly wages.

    “It remains to be seen whether changes in average wage and indemnity cost per claim will begin to converge in 2010,” NCCI said in the research brief.

    Average medical costs for workers comp claims rose 5% last year, the lowest increase in the past 15 years, NCCI said.

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    Hospitality Industry Security Risks: Arizona City Hotel Ordinance Seeks To Curb Guests Who Pay In Cash And Withhold Registering Name In Attempt To Stop Crime

    The city is advancing a hotel-motel ordinance designed to track who stays in hotels, which police say will drive away prostitutes, drug dealers and other criminals who pay in cash and don’t give their name.

    Police are more interested in patrons who pay by cash or who check in at hotels that don’t require a name, Chief Frank Milstead said. Patrons who check in with a credit card aren’t trying to hide, he said.

    Mesa hotels will likely be forced to ask guests for an ID or some other proof of identity under a push to drive crime out of the city’s hotels.

    The city is advancing a hotel-motel ordinance designed to track who stays in hotels, which police say will drive away prostitutes, drug dealers and other criminals who pay in cash and don’t give their name.

    Police say other cities have fought crime with similar rules, but technology is posing a challenge as the city drafts an ordinance that requires a hotel to see a guest’s ID, verify license plate numbers and keep records for a year.

    Many hotels are converting to paperless registration, so it’s possible for guests to check in, pay by credit card and get a key without interacting with a hotel employee. Hotels don’t want to burden guests with showing an ID when a swipe of a credit card will identify who is checking in, said Robert Brinton, president of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    “We don’t want them to say it’s a hassle staying in Mesa,” Brinton said.

    Police are more interested in patrons who pay by cash or who check in at hotels that don’t require a name, Chief Frank Milstead said. Patrons who check in with a credit card aren’t trying to hide, he said.

    “Those aren’t the people we’re looking for,” Milstead said.

    The city’s Public Safety Committee agreed to move forward with the rules on Thursday. The proposal stems from police statistics in 2009 that showed 6 percent of all warrant arrests and 4 percent of all drug arrests were at hotels and motels. Just 10 hotels accounted for 49 percent of the warrant arrests and 64 percent of drug arrests. Police say regulation will greatly reduce the time they spend at hotels and allow them to fight other crime.

    A hotel-motel review board would oversee the rules, with some members being nominated by the hotel industry and some by the city. Hotels that don’t collect IDs and keep the information for a year could face fines of $250 to $2,500.

    Hotels support the rules, but say the ID issue needs to be resolved so it’s possible for guests to check in without showing an ID to a hotel when their identity has been revealed through a credit card payment. Also, Brinton said the six-page ordinance could probably be thinned to two pages to make the rules simple.

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