HSE researches into call centres

Work Study

ISSN: 0043-8022

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




(2000), "HSE researches into call centres", Work Study, Vol. 49 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ws.2000.07949caf.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

HSE researches into call centres

HSE researches into call centres

Keywords: United Kingdom, Health and safety, Customer services

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is researching working practices in call centres.

It is estimated that between 1 per cent to 1.7 per cent of the total UK workforce is employed in call centres. This is more than the combined workforce of coalmining, steel and vehicle production, and it is predicted that this number will increase to just over 2 per cent in the next two to three years.

The study is being carried out by the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), which is an agency of HSE. The research is looking at a broad range of call centres which differ in their location, sector type, size and maturity. The researchers are measuring potential physical and psychological health risks associated with the working practices employed and exploring the measures to be taken which may reduce risks.

The research started at the end of last year. The first phase concentrated on developing a questionnaire used to assess potential health risks. Phase two involves using the questionnaire during interviews with call handlers, team leaders, middle and senior management, union representatives and occupational health professionals. The research is involving a review of the application of existing guidance and regulations, such as the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, to see if guidance can be produced specifically aimed at call centres.

The questionnaire covered display screen equipment (DSE) assessments, working environments, requirements for work stations, the daily work routine of call handlers, training, organisational working practices, shifts, and health issues such as stress, noise levels, voice loss and musculoskeletal disorders (such as back problems and other aches and pains in the joints and muscles).

The research was commissioned by HSE's Local Authority Unit (LAU), as it is LA inspectors who have responsibility for enforcing health and safety law in call centres. It was decided that the further research was necessary following an exploratory study which was completed by HSL earlier last year. This involved call centre staff and other stakeholders such as unions and LA inspectors. This showed that areas needing further study included musculoskeletal disorders and voice loss.

LAU has already issued a Local Authority Circular (LAC) to LAs which provides initial advice for LA inspectors who visit call centres. This gives the results of the exploratory study and outlines the issues that should be considered, such as the working environment, daily routine of workers and specific health issues. The data from the forthcoming research will be analysed and an amended LAC will be issued.

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