Introduction: The Legacy of Borrowed Approaches

The occupational safety field owes the greatest portion of its origins and growth to industries such as mining, construction and manufacturing. The inherent high risks and exposures in these areas have long driven continued development of safety approaches and risk controls. For decades much of what were traditionally seen as lower risk industries barely even considered safety as a significant business priority.

The situation has changed, and industries in that latter category, such as the hospitality industry, can no longer allow safety to remain off the list of active business priorities. As hotel operators, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses recognize the costs of workplace injuries and the regulatory burden that they face, workplace safety has become more and more of an active priority. Where at one time operators of those businesses generally didn't seek out much in the way of techniques and tools for accident prevention, now there is an active need for those tools.

Typically, when a hospitality industry manager seeks out a framework for injury prevention strategy, an approach for use with a group or site, or tools related to specific areas of risk, they find the majority of what exists was developed for manufacturing or one of the other traditional higher-risk industries, such as those mentioned above. Though there is much technical innovation in approaches developed for those industries, there are significant limits to how directly they can be applied in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality workplace, management structure, workforce, and the overall culture of the industry all contribute to the limitations that face application of solutions developed for other industries in a hospitality setting. Common messages that are often implicit in the application of methods that are clearly from other industries follow the theme of "This doesn't apply to us" or "We don't need to worry about that area, we don't do that kind of work here." If those are the messages that begin a safety approach, the hopes of later success of the program are severely limited. Understanding the hospitality industry setting can help us have greater success in our efforts from start to finish, whether we're working on a program from the ground up, or seeking to adapt an existing one.

Understanding the Hospitality Safety Culture

Though hospitality extends as an industry beyond the traditional lodging segment, for our purposes in this context, we'll focus on the issues and environment of the lodging industry. Lodging as an industry is not monolithic, and it is important that there are variations even within one chain or geographical region. Inherent in what is presented here is the idea that though the examples presented are representative, the complexities in the field are such that real world situations may vary greatly.

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