Sunday, July 10, 2011

On Hotel Housekeepers and Fitted Sheets

Rotator cuff injuries are nasty. I got my first one lifting a just-watered pot to a shelf over my head. I felt the pull, but didn't know what it meant. Several weeks of pain, disability and drugs--that's what it meant. Who gets rotator cuff injuries? Baseball pitchers, tennis players and women who garden. Yeah, I'm a member of one of the groups most likely to be injured.

But there's another victim group. Hotel housekeepers. And rotator cuff injuries most often happen when the housekeeper is making the bed. I know. How can that be? It's simple. Think about your mattress. Unless you're still doing a futon, and most people above the age of 35 aren't, your mattress is a bulky affair. It's not like old mattresses, which were thinner and, while heavy, not nearly so bulky. Now think about using a flat sheet on said mattress. You don't use a flat bottom sheet? Neither do I. Neither does anyone else I know. And why not? Because it's a lot easier to maneuver a fitted sheet onto the bulky mattress frame, that's why. And while you may not know it, it also helps to prevent shoulder injuries because you only have to lift the mattress at the corners.

But California hoteliers have launched a campaign against fitted sheets. They don't think that the shoulders of their housekeepers are worth protecting. To save the money required to switch to fitted sheets, they're willing to cause women permanent, debilitating injuries. Many of the injured will never be able to work again; hell, some of them won't be able to dress themselves again. (To see what I mean, try dressing yourself without lifting one of your arms.)

One reason for the hoteliers' intransigence is that they don't have to pay the cost of the injuries. Injured workers are dumped into the workers' compensation, and state and federal disability systems, so that the rest of us can pay these costs. Even those hotels with union staffs don't have to pay health care costs for workers who have lost their jobs as a result of injury. Maybe the state government should say, "okay, we won't do this, but you will pay every penny that the disabled women collect from the public coffers for the rest of their lives."

No comments: