Earlier this year Senator Kevin de Leon introduced SB 432 to the California legislature. This seemingly innocuous piece of workplace safety legislation would require hotels to use fitted sheets instead of flat sheets, and provide their workers with long handled mops and brooms to clean bathrooms. It’s considered a workplace safety issue because its implementation would prevent workers from bending and stooping as much, and in theory decrease injuries.
And although the lodging industry opposes it because of the added expense, I’m wondering if this is the harbinger of things come. Specifically, if sheets can fall under the umbrella of OSHA, then why not bed height?
As you probably know bed height is one item that isn’t regulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course the Department of Justice (DOJ) is looking into the issue and has already solicited public comments on the matter. But as you also know, revising access regulations takes a lot of time. I mean, we’re still waiting for the ADAAG on cruise ships; and the Supreme Court decision mandating that was handed on June 6, 2005.
So what would happen if the same unions that are fighting for fitted sheets and long handled brooms also want high beds? Think about it. It makes perfect sense, because workers wouldn’t have to bend over as much to make up higher beds. And less bending means less risk of injury.
And what if the unions happen to get an OSHA regulation on the books before the DOJ can address bed height?. Technically when state and federal access regulations differ, the more stringent of the two applies.
But would higher beds be more or less stringent? Well if you are a slow walker who can’t bend much and need a high bed, then they would probably be more stringent. But if you were a wheeler who needs a lower bed for a safe transfer, then higher beds would probably be the less stringent standard.
Bottom line, I think it’s entirely possible for the bed height issue to turn up in a number of arenas, including the workplace safety arena. So as far as I’m concerned, SB 432 is something to keep an eye on; because it might just be the tip of the bed height iceberg. It passed the State Senate yesterday (25-15) and is now on the way to the Sate Assembly. It will be interesting to see how it fares there, and if our governor will sign it if it makes it to his desk.
Time will tell. Today it’s sheets, but tomorrow it could be beds.