The State of Massachusetts is in the process of introducing new legislation, the Safer Hotels for Workers Act, to protect lone working hotel employees.
Legislation for Lone workers in Massachusetts hotels
Bill H.1657, presented by Adrian C. Madaro, has been added to Chapter 149D of the General Laws, as Section 105E. Bill H.1657 has been through the Senate and passed on to the House, where it was reported favourably by the committee, on the 27th of February 2020. It has since been referred to the committee on House Ways and Means.
The Bill for safer hotels will apply to any hotel, inn, boarding house, motel or other establishment which contains at least 25 guest rooms. ¹
Within these establishments any full-time or part-time employee who is assigned to work in a guest room or in any enclosed area where no other employee is present but where guests may be reasonably expected to be present, must be issued with a panic button. ²
The employee may use the panic button and cease work if the employee reasonably believes there is an act of violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other emergency happening in their presence. Panic buttons must be provided by the hotel at no cost to the employee.
What is a lone worker panic button?
Section 105E of the Massachusetts General Laws, defines a “Panic button” as,
“ a portable emergency contact device which an employee can quickly and easily activate to effectively summon immediate on-scene assistance from a security officer, manager or supervisor, or other appropriate hotel staff member.” ³
In the instance of an employee activating their panic button, an appointed staff member of the hotel, manager, supervisor, or security officer must respond immediately to the location of the hotel employee who has requested help.
If a hotel owner is found to be in violation of The Safer Hotels for Workers Act, they will be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $100 nor more than $10,000. Massachusetts law stipulates that each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense.
Massachusetts have also introduced legislation regarding people accused of committing a crime on hotel premises. This aspect of the Act has been rejected in other states and counties.
If a panic button is used to alert management of an incident, a record of the accusation and the name of the accused guest shall be recorded and kept for a period of three years from the date of the incident. ⁴
Hotel management are required to carry out an internal investigation to determine as much identifying information about an accused guest as is reasonably possible. Once the investigation has concluded, if the hotel employee provides a certified statement of an assault or sexual harassment, or if the hotel employer determines there is information in addition to or independent of a hotel employee’s statement that reasonably supports the hotel employee’s description of the incident, the hotel can decline to provide occupancy to the guest for a period of at least three years from the date of the incident. ⁵
Panic button safety solutions
There are many panic buttons and lone worker solutions available for Massachusetts hotel owners to purchase once the Safer Hotels for Workers Act is passed. One such solution is Ok Alone, the lone worker safety solution from Trusty Ox Systems.
Ok Alone’s lone worker safety app runs on a worker’s smart phone and allows them to check in at regular intervals or request help if they need it. The ‘Help Button’ sends an alert to an appointed staff member of the hotel, manager, supervisor, or security officer letting them know that a lone worker needs immediate assistance and needs to be contacted. The help button can be pushed manually or triggered using voice commands. The system has GPS capabilities that can locate a worker if they activate the ‘help’ alert.
If workers are using the app and fail to check in or request help, another employee or security guard responsible for providing immediate on-scene assistance, will be notified, keeping in line with Bill H.1657, Section 105E.
Ok Alone’s Safety Features
Ok Alone has additional features that allow lone workers to contact their supervisors directly. Workers have the option of sending a written or voice message directly to the person monitoring their safety.
Those employees working alone can change the frequency of their check ins with the ‘high-risk’ feature. If a worker enters an area where they feel vulnerable, such as being alone in a stockroom, they can reduce the check in time to as little as 10 minutes. After the time has passed with no alerts, the check in frequency will return to the original count down duration.
The Ok Alone smartphone app works in conjunction with a website and dashboard that can be used on a pc, laptop, tablet or another smartphone. The online dashboard will display a map supplying whoever is monitoring the worker with their last known location if an alert is triggered. This will allow help to be sent to the correct location at a moment’s notice and give lone workers the confidence that they are never really alone.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H1657/House/Bill/Text#:~:text=The%20employee%20may%20use%20the,happening%20in%20the%20employee’s%20presence.&text=A%20hotel%20employee%20shall%20not%20be%20required%20to%20provide%20a%20certified%20statement.