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Concerns for Safety and Security in Housekeeping Operations

The security function in the hospitality industry today
is best described as that major preventive and proactive
activity used to protect the assets of the organization.
But who would have thought 40 years ago that the asset
list would evolve to include our guests and invitees, our
employees, and the property of all three, in addition to
supplies, equipment, and funds, as well as our reputation
and goodwill.
To fulfill this function, those involved in security
work must be able to foresee and assess (even predict)
threats, then make recommendations to ownership and
management regarding the most appropriate action
to take that will safeguard both life and property. In
addition, personnel of all departments must search
out and alert operational management of the need
to ‘‘prevent’’ unreasonable and imprudent operation
that could result in liability for incautious action and
negligent behavior.
Few facilities are more vulnerable to security hazards
than hotels with restaurants, lounges, casinos, parking
garages, and theme parks. The nature of a business
that involves the presence of large numbers of people,
most of whom are not known to the manager, poses
an ever-present threat to the security of other guests,
employees, and the property. The risks of fire and natural
disaster, riot, theft, embezzlement, civil disturbance, or
bomb threats, have increased in recent years, all of
which can cause serious injury or loss of life, theft, loss or
damage to property belonging to the guests, employees,
or the facility itself.
Security is not what was once seen to be the plainclothes
house detective whose only functions were to keep the
peace within the hotel and on occasion evict the noisy
guest or the one who did not have the means to pay the
Even though in most cases security officers are
uniformed, badged, and sometimes armed, such persons
are not members of the local metropolitan police, nor
are they a part of the sheriff’s posse. Seldom do members
of private organizations possess police powers, only the
power of an ordinary citizen to teach, observe, report,
call for help, and, on occasion, perform a citizen’s arrest.
It is hoped that this information will encourage all
housekeeping personnel to become aware and have
concerns regarding the volatility and fragility of our
hospitality industry with regard to foreseeable security
and safety matters.
The function of hospitality security is every employee’s
responsibility. Looking for what is ‘‘out of the ordinary’’ or
‘‘just doesn’t look right’’ (JDLR), preventing, foreseeing,
predicting, and removing hazards and other causes of
crime, injury, and unsafe practices must be primary in
the minds of every employee, regardless of the size of
the establishment or the department in which one is
employed. Every employee, manager, and owner must
become the eyes of the security department—whether
there are 100 employees assigned to security or only
one employee on the property in early-morning hours.
Remember, if nothing ever happens, security is doing a
good job.
Security from Theft in the Housekeeping Department
No other hotel employees have as much access to
hotel assets and guest property as do members of the
housekeeping department.
This writer recalls being shown a photograph taken by
an employee of her children at home. In the background
were drapes, a bedspread, and a lamp from the hotel in
which she was employed.
Management’s attitude about employee honesty runs
to the extremes, as illustrated by the following commonly
heard statements: ‘‘My employees would never steal,’’ or
‘‘I don’t trust any of my employees; they will all steal
if given a chance.’’ Both statements tell a story: either
management is naive about people in general, or it
believes that the only way to manage people is by Theory
X techniques , and using scare
Harold Gluck,1 a registered criminologist and a
member of the American Association of Criminology,
quoted reports stating that ‘‘30% of your employees
will steal from you; 30% of them are honest, and the
remaining 40% go with the tide and the opportunity.’’
Gluck’s conclusion provides hope that there is an
unemotional and objective point from which to depart
in establishing a sound program for employee theft

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