By TONI L.
KAMINS - The New York Times - 01/18/04
Fitzgerald, a corporate communications executive from
Colorado, stepped out of the shower at the Ritz-Carlton
Hotel in Phoenix in March 2002, she didn't notice that
a little water had accumulated on the floor.
The shiny white
marble floor, combined with the bathroom's bright lights,
made the water almost impossible to see. Fitzgerald slipped,
fell and broke her sacrum. But the water was only partly
to blame, she says: The shower curtain didn't extend below
the rim of the bathtub, and the rubber backing on the
bath rug was worn.
Genna Goldberg, a California publicist, did an unintentional
split while she stepped from the bathtub onto the marble
floor at Le Merigot, a JW Marriott hotel in Santa Monica,
Calif. She was lucky to get away with a few aches and
hotel industry statistics, slips and falls have consistently
accounted for about 42 percent of guest accidents; bathrooms
are among the top five places they occur.
polished to a glossy, reflective finish are popular with
hotel designers and guests alike. And although the all-marble
trend started at luxury hotels, the look is so popular
that it is filtering down to midprice hotels, too. But
marble's smoothness makes it a dangerous material for
experts speculate that the proliferation of marble and
other smooth, easy-to-clean materials along with the absence
of federal standards for hotel bathtub and shower safety
means the accident rate is likely to increase, as baby
boomers age. But travelers of all ages need to be cautious.
rate doesn't surprise Bruce Goff, a San Francisco-based
hotel room designer. Goff, who specializes in bathrooms,
said that he has walked into some hotel rooms and thought,
‘‘Gee, I hope their insurance is paid up.''
determine the kind of material that goes into a hotel
bathroom, he said: initial cost, aesthetics and cleaning
time. ‘‘Luxury is the be-all and end-all,''
he added, ‘‘and the marketplace competition
is what drives the aesthetics.'' In other words, bathrooms
presence of the supersize bathtub, with high sides and
wide interiors, is another hazard. Stepping in from a
slippery floor surface onto a slippery tub surface magnifies
of the National Floor Safety Institute, a trade organization
that promotes the use of high-traction materials, says
that hotels don't like to use the available materials
or rubber mats because they believe they detract from
the look of the bathroom and also because nonskid surfaces
require constant upkeep. Stepping into a wet bathtub without
some kind of high-traction surface or one that has been
worn away by improper cleaningis an accident waiting to
happen, he said.
John P.S. Salmen,
a Maryland architect who consults on code and materials
issues for the hotel industry, says that slip-resistant
floors are possible and most cost effective if installed
when the hotel is built.
to Ken Giles, a spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety
Commission, safety standards (which are voluntary) don't
apply to bathroom floors, only to the interior of the
tub or shower.
of Hilton — which also owns the Hampton Inn, Doubletree,
Embassy Suites, and Homewood Suites brands — and
Hyatt refused a number of requests to be interviewed for
In a response
to questions sent in an e-mail message, a representative
for Marriott (whose brands include JW Hotels, Courtyard,
Renaissance, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Fairfield
Inn, SpringHill Suites, Ramada and Ritz-Carlton), said
that new hotels managed by Marriott ‘‘have
grab bars in tubs/showers'' that ceramic floor tile in
bathrooms must have a ‘‘slip resistance coefficient''
that meets the flooring industry's specifications, and
that bathtubs must have factory installed slip-resistant
etching. Regular cleaning, he said, is the best way to
maintain that etching.
In their quest
for more exquisite bathrooms, some hotels, especially
upscale ones, have taken steps to reduce some of the safety
problems, although safety was not the driving force. One
example is installing separate shower stalls and soaking
tubs. Experts say that this is safer because the floors
of stall showers are usually made up of small ceramic
tiles, which are less slippery. But the soaking tub remains
a concern because of the marble floor and the interior
surface of the tub.
chain, which favors marble floors in its hotel bathrooms,
has made separate shower stalls with far less slippery
small ceramic tile floors standard since the mid-1990s,
according to Derek Flint, senior corporate director of
rooms, though older properties have the combined bathtub-shower
and thus have rubber bath mats.
want the bathroom to make a statement,'' Flint said, adding
that the marble bathroom floors are not slip resistant.
But cotton bath rugs are provided at tubs and shower stalls
and rubber-backed mats at sinks to reduce slips, he added.
Treatment with a slip-resistant coating, he said, affects
the look of the floor.
In Aimee Fitzgerald's
case her medical expenses, which were paid by Ritz-Carlton
after she filed some forms and nudged them a little, came
to about $2,000. Barry Knopf, a New Jersey personal-injury
lawyer, said that he had seen laments for injury-related
medical expenses ranging from $1,800 into six figures.
In June 2000 a Wisconsin jury awarded $189,000 to a plaintiff
who slipped and fell in the bathtub at the Hyatt Regency
hotels, like the Hotel Teatro in Denver, use surfaces
such as Indonesian sandstone that look rich, but are not
slippery when wet. Grab bars are one safety feature that
can be easily added to a bathroom, and they have become
more commonplace, even in upscale hotels such as newer
Goff said that
as a designer one of his jobs was to educate the client
about materials used in bathrooms. But design is only
the beginning; safety features must be properly installed
and maintained. In November 2001, a jury awarded a plaintiff
$1.75 million for an injury sustained when the safety
grab bars in the tub at a Holiday Inn in Chattanooga,
Tenn., detached from the wall.
can occur with the hard surfaces in the confines of a
bathroom? According to Dr. Edward AToriello, director
of orthopedics at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn,
injuries can include strains and sprains, broken hips,
and back, shoulder and wrist injuries. Dr. Munsey Wheby,
president of the American College of Physicians, cautions
that there can also be less obvious injuries. Effects
of some serious injuries, such as rib fractures and blood
clots on the brain, can take three to five days, even
weeks, to become obvious.