Keeping the house in order

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 August, 2010, 12:00am

When it comes to ensuring the health and safety of its employees, the Kowloon Shangri-La means business.

The hotel is on alert around-the-clock and is capable of dealing with all manner of emergencies at any time of the day or night.

At the centre of the hotel's safety initiative is its manager, Jens Corder, who runs the health and safety systems with clockwork precision. He co-ordinates its numerous committees, daily inspection teams and regular training courses to make sure that the highest standards are maintained at all times.

Corder stresses that the Kowloon Shangri-La, like its sister hotels, has an all-encompassing approach to promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR). He himself is chairman of its CSR committee. The hotel prides itself on providing a comfortable, safe and healthy environment for staff.

For example, kitchen staff undergo stringent training and retraining on how to handle food, while regular spot checks are carried out to ensure high compliance standards.

Results of daily food hygiene inspections are recorded and analysed to see how improvements can be made. Sometimes the same restaurant or the same employees may be subject to repeat inspections.

Corder says the practice is not meant to penalise staff, but to enforce good work habits at a hotel where food and food safety are a top priority.

Kowloon Shangri-La's food safety management is strictly guided by the ISO 22000 certification, which was awarded to the hotel in November 2008. It is one of the most sought-after accreditations in the hospitality and food sectors. The standard was developed by the International Organization for Standardization. Corder says another area of concern is occupational health and safety. The hotel is considering installing a hydraulic system to lift beds, so that housekeeping staff can tuck in the sheets without having to stoop over.

'Not only will this prevent back injuries and minimise lower back pain, it will save time, make it easier on the maids, and reduce medical bills and sick leave,' he says.

The idea is on the drawing board and he hopes to get funding soon.

Corder admits that running a hotel is less like managing a business and more like running a small country. 'When it comes down to it, it's about making sure that everyone is safe, healthy and happy.'

He insists that despite the rigidity of it all, there is a human touch to it. 'It might have shocked a lot of people at first, but once they have realised our primary concern is to promote their welfare, it all becomes easy,' Corder says.

He admits that, at first glance, all the monitoring may seem tedious - the meetings, the daily spot checks, and the training and retraining to track progress. But it is only by maintaining regularity that a natural work rhythm is created, so that staff practices become second nature.

The Kowloon Shangri-La is part of the Kerry Group, the controlling shareholder of the SCMP Group, which publishes the South China Morning Post.

Golden rules

Ensure health and safety systems are clearly defined and well structured

Make sure all messages are clearly communicated

All systems are integrated to avoid overlapping of resources

Review and assess systems and policies regularly

Update systems to reflect changing circumstances

Bring all stakeholders on board to guarantee proper implementation and long-term success