The Miami Beach Ordinance: Some Miami Hotels Are Shortcutting the New Safety Mandate, But at What Cost?

by React Mobile, on Jun 11, 2019 10:35:12 AM

"The statistics are beyond concerning, and it's why I pushed for this necessary action to be undertaken by the City," Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez said in a news release.

Safety doesn’t happen by accident. This ideology has seemingly assumed center stage across the hospitality industry over the last few months as hotel properties across the U.S. consider a much-needed reform to their employee safety programs. While hoteliers have always placed a great deal of emphasis on guest safety and experience, the safety and dedicated protection of staff has - in many cases - taken a back seat. With this critical issue in mind, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) announced the 5-Star Promise. The initiative represents a pledge (in coordination with partnered hotel brands) to provide hotel employees across the U.S. with employee safety devices (ESDs) and commit to enhanced policies, training and resources that together are aimed at enhancing hotel safety, including preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault.

As of August 1st, this mandate makes its way to Miami Beach, Florida – requiring all hotels to implement ESDs in their properties. The city commission voted unanimously on this ordinance, citing the #MeToo movement and how low-wage workers, mostly immigrant women, are among the most vulnerable to sexual assault in the workplace. This ordinance will induce a 12-month domino effect, in which many hotels across the U.S. will, eventually, be required to follow suit and implement ESDs. But as with the implementation of any significant, regulated change across the hospitality industry – this one has been met with some resistance. Despite having almost a year to prepare for this mandate, many Miami hotels are still ill-equipped to meet the new regulations or are adding confusion to the question of what ‘legally’ fulfills the requirement of an ESD. In an industry where so many strict rules are enforced, hoteliers are pushing back on the implementation of yet another mandate. However, at what cost?

As indicated by the ordinance, a safety button or a portable contact device that is designed so that an employee can quickly and easily activate the device to effectively summon prompt assistance to their exact location. For those hotels hoping to merely ‘satisfy’ the mandate with the provision of whistles or noisemakers, claiming that these are ‘enough’ to count as an ESD – consider the following:

A housekeeper who works at a large-scale, multi-level property encounters a troublesome scenario in the room she is servicing. Realizing that she needs imminent help, she digs into her pocket and pulls out a noisemaker. Despite setting off the sound more than once, the hotel’s security team is unable to identify her exact location in a timely manner. Further, the emittance of a loud noise could, in fact, aggravate the assailant more, or be quickly silenced. In some cases, the delayed support might still be enough – but in many cases, a prompt response (and a discreet call for help) can save a life. If the housekeeper in this scenario had been supplied with a dedicated ESD device that utilized Bluetooth beacon technology, support would immediately have access to her (real-time) location. Not only does this ensure her safety, but it limits disruption to other guests with credit to the accuracy of location tracking. This disruption to other guests not only poses a threat to their on-property experience and the impression made by your hotel, but it places a potentially dangerous burden on nearby guests to respond to emergencies. With best in class, comprehensive safety devices now available, hoteliers now have the opportunity to customize a safety platform that aligns seamlessly with their property’s needs.

What is the sense in arguing the specific qualifications, and potential loopholes of the ordinance, when the definition (and need for) a modern ESD platform is obvious? To effectively summon prompt assistance, employees need access to effective platforms that relay that pertinent information to authorities. Simply put, a whistle just won’t cut it. Moreover, if hotels shortcut compliance and limit the speed of prompt assistance in an emergency circumstance, are they not creating potential liability for well-being and safety?

Understandably, the implementation of new technology and procedures can often be interpreted as an operational burden. The hospitality industry has frequently come under fire for this trepidation to recent reform, with guests and staff alike finding frustration in the absence of updated technology and platforms. However, the issue here isn’t – or rather, shouldn’t be – about a long-standing resistance to new regulations. The ordinance is really about protecting employees and preventing liability in hotels that would undoubtedly arise if they fail to provide adequate safety measures for staff.

Daniel F. Benavides, a prominent Miami attorney, explains, “It is every hotel’s utmost priority to look after the health and safety of their employees. So, of course, any measures to solidify this protection should be explored. The ordinance in of itself is not really what’s important here; it’s the elevated standard of care that hotels have to meet to comply with their duty to protect their employees. The ordinance is just bringing attention to what already should be the standard of care.”

Ultimately, the Miami ordinance encourages hotels to be proactive, rather than reactive – ensuring the well-being of their staff while also protecting their reputation. By making a commitment to act, the hospitality industry is set to undergo an essential transition to self-regulated, heightened safety standards.

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