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Housekeepers say luxury hotel beds a pain

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Those heavenly beds in luxury hotels may give people a great night’s sleep. But how would it feel to lift the 100-pound (45-kg) mattresses and change the sheets 16 times a day?

A bed is reflected in a mirror in a room in a hotel in Tokyo June 7, 2007. Those heavenly beds in luxury hotels may give people a great night's sleep. But how would it feel to lift the 100-pound (45-kg) mattresses and change the sheets 16 times a day? REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Housekeepers at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton have scored a big win as they struggle with back and knee injuries exacerbated by making heavier beds with upscale linens, comforters and cushions that can weigh up to 16 pounds (7 kg) per bed, occupational safety activists said on Thursday.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined the privately owned hotel $14,425 for violating repetitive motion injury standards and other hazards.

The activists say the citation, issued October 30, is the first against the U.S. hotel industry for repetitive motion injuries.

A spokesman said the hotel would appeal the citation but welcomed the findings of the six-month probe and would use them to improve its safety program, which includes stretching exercises to help housekeepers warm up and avoid injuries.

Housekeepers at the LAX Hilton and the Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health filed a complaint in May.

It listed tasks such as pulling off dirty sheets, repeatedly lifting 100-pound (45-kg) mattresses to tuck in clean sheets, changing heavy duvets, and stretching to scrub shower walls, toilets and tubs.

“The hotel makes us finish 16 rooms a day,” said Adela Barrientos, one of the housekeepers who filed the complaint. “Doing the same repetitive tasks from room to room, week after week, causes us constant pain and injury.”

Pushing carts loaded with toiletries and towels over deep-pile carpets also takes its toll, the campaigners said.

The hospitality division of the union UNITE HERE urged hotels throughout the United States to take steps to reduce back and shoulder injuries among the industry’s mostly female housekeepers.

“This important ... citation is a wake up call to the LAX Hilton to follow the law and put into practice remedies that exist in other hotels to prevent these kinds of injuries,” said John Wilhelm, president of the hospitality division of UNITE HERE.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Mary Milliken and Xavier Briand

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