When you stay at a hotel, have you ever wondered where all of the towels and linens go after housekeeping whisks them out of your room? As you step out of the hotel and observe the immaculate grounds, have you ever wondered where all of those motorized carts, brooms, rakes and tools are kept? How about all of the elaborate seasonal decorations? Or the newspapers, recyclable glass and plastic bottles?
They all go somewhere. After a refreshing night’s stay, a filling breakfast and a morning swim in a crystal-clear pool, I got a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to give customers the level of service they expect when staying at a four-star hotel chain.
Hotel chains are businesses. And just like other businesses, they need to have environmental and safety plans for the storage and handling of both non-hazardous and hazardous materials at each of their sites. They also need to coordinate a lot of schedules. The hotel I was visiting, like many, has locations world-wide and they hold each of their hotels to the highest environmental and safety standards, even if local regulations may allow more leniency.
The hotel I visited is in Canada. Management requested our help because although they felt pretty certain that they were in compliance with Canadian regulations, the chain’s headquarters is based in the United States and they wanted to make sure that they would also meet the more stringent U.S. regulations if they were to be audited by the corporate office.
Of particular concern to them were chemical segregation, spill preparedness and secondary containment for hazardous materials. Staff members use cleaning supplies, pool sanitizing and laundry chemicals daily. Because the hotel is located in a large tourist area near water, environmental stewardship is paramount. Even the water softeners used to condition water in guest rooms and the ice-melt used in winter months to keep sidewalks slip-free are scrutinized to ensure that they won’t impair water quality.
This facility had designated areas for bulk chemical storage at their receiving and shipping dock, but they needed a way to provide segregation for incompatible chemicals and secondary containment that would prevent a spill from leaving the dock and entering a nearby storm drain.
Because they do not have an onsite emergency spill response team, they would need to call the city’s hazmat team to respond to a chemical release. This is an expensive option, and they hope to avoid that by doubling up on secondary containment.
We suggested secondary containment pallets to segregate incompatible chemicals and Build-A-Berm Barriers around the perimeter of the entire storage area as a third line of defense to prevent anything from leaving the dock.
On the way to the pumping area where large hydraulic pumps lift water more than 50 stories to the guest rooms and other areas of the hotel, we passed the recycling area. Glass bottles were sorted by color and neatly stacked. Newspapers were bundled. Plastic bottles were in large totes. Fluorescent bulbs were gathered in boxes. Each item is regularly picked up by recycling contractors to minimize the volume of waste that leaves the facility.
The laundry supervisor took me past the washers, dryers and the large rolling presses that churn out wrinkle-free sheets and table linens that were expertly folded by employees and stacked neatly into bins, to the area where the cleaning detergents and other chemicals that they use to maintain brilliantly white sheets and fluffy towels are kept. As in the other areas, we considered secondary containment and segregation options to prevent the concentrated chemicals from entering a nearby floor drain. Like the loading dock area, spill decks and pallets could be used here to keep stray fluids in check.
Near the laundry room is a storage area where supplies like shampoo bottles, towels, sheets and shower curtains are available to make guest rooms comfortable. Hotel employees also use this area to fill their cleaning and sanitizing solution bottles with concentrate and water.
A concern for this storage area is incidental leaks and drips where bottles are filled. Absorbents weren’t stocked in the area, so when a container is accidentally overfilled, the small puddle on the floor is often just left to dry on its own. Because the floors are smooth concrete, this creates a slip and fall hazard. We located an area where a box of wipes or absorbent mats could be stored to encourage everyone to clean up incidental spills when they happen so that no one slips and falls.
The last area we visited was the outdoor grounds maintenance garage located on the bottom floor of the parking garage. The entire area was sloped, so if the totes of liquid snow-melt, grounds keeping chemicals or anything else spilled in this area, it would be contained by design, but it would create quite a mess to clean up. They’re going to consider tote containment pallets for this area to prevent a time-consuming cleanup in the event of a tote breaking.
As we walked back through the polished granite lobby, with the sun gleaming through the spotless windows, I had a greater appreciation for all that goes on behind the scenes to make my hotel stay so comfortable. I smiled knowing that all of these things were being done in a safe, environmentally sustainable manner.