Many people associate workers' compensation with injuries that happen from a standard work task. This means that employees in high-risk industries like logging, fishing, construction or police work are most affected. While people in those fields are certainly at risk, this assumption overlooks another area where injuries happen: from interactions with the public.
Workplace safety isn't only about safety nets and protective equipment, it relates to any threat of harm. It can include repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel, injury caused by tripping over an extension cord in an office, a deep fryer mishap in a kitchen, or injuries from a violent, law-breaking customer.
Violence at hotels and other workplaces
The recent spotlight on sexual harassment cases around the country highlights another area of concern. Hotel housekeepers are in a particularly vulnerable position, as they often work in close conditions with customers who are in private confines. Many in the industry are uneducated and speak another language, which creates a power dynamic that makes them especially vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault. It is also common for hotel guests to be intoxicated, which can escalate a situation.
There is a movement to combat the issue, with changes taking place in union collective bargain agreements, city ordinances and hotel chain guidelines. Many hotels now equip housekeepers with new technology such as tablets, electronic whistles and panic buttons in case of an aggressive guest.
Hotel housekeepers are not alone. Many occupations put employees in a position where the customer can prey upon a vulnerable situation, such as restaurant and bar staff, custodians, convenience store clerks and more. When a company opens its doors to the public, one never knows who will walk in and what they might do. Even a secured office building can become a scene of violence when a disgruntled employee acts out.
Recovery and workers' compensation claims
Employers need to provide a safe workspace. Unfortunately, violence can happen anywhere. When an unfortunate situation like this occurs, any injuries sustained are work-related and eligible for workers' compensation. Whether a physical injury or psychological, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, it's important prioritize your recovery. Workplace violence is a tragic and painful experience. Anyone who has experienced such a situation should consult with an attorney to discuss a workers' compensation claim and to determine what other resources are available to you.