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The Occupational Safety and Health Center, through its technical divisions,

has embarked on a research project that will look into the occupational
safety and health conditions in call centers in the Philippines. This project
addresses a relatively recent phenomenon in the work environment that

A search of secondary data or published reports yielded only a few studies


concerning occupational safety and health conditions in call centers.
Among the identified health problems in call center employees were pains
in the neck/shoulder, wrist and back areas. These problems were associated
with poor workstation design such as computer monitors placed above eye
level, work surfaces that were too high, non-adjustable chair.

Another health issue that affect call center operators is the risk of having
voice problems. Telemarketers are twice more likely to have voice
problems compared to the general population as shown by the study of
Jones. Symptoms noted were dry itchy throat, hoarseness, frequent clearing
of throat. One of the factors identified to contribute to the problem is the
high demand on the vocal system because of the interactive nature of the
task of call center operators.

The major psychosocial and work organization stressors identified by


participants include
Very little job security fearing that their call centre might close suddenly
Dealing with rude clients
Unrealistic performance quotas assessed in terms call rates, call times,
sales quotas; constant electronic performance monitoring; random taping
of phone conversations.
Work Schedules that interfere with family and social life. Very early or late
shifts created transportation problems and concerns for safety

Call center workers have been documented to have occasional exposure to


higher noise levels is possible, for example from fax tones, holding tones,
and high pitched tones from mobile telephones. High sound levels in the
room may also occur from the simultaneous talking of the employees.
Though it is recognized that in general the levels of noise transmitted
through the headsets or levels present in the call centers are incapable of
damaging the ear directly, a large number of workers studied were
concerned that their hearing was being damaged as a result of exposure to

The Occupational Safety and Health Center, through its technical divisions,
has embarked on a research project that will look into the occupational
safety and health conditions in call centers in the Philippines. This project
addresses a relatively recent phenomenon in the work environment that

A cross-sectional study is being planned in 5 call centers covering various


nature and complexity of tasks.
About 50 employees from each company selected by purposive sampling
will be asked to answer a questionnaire.
Data about personal circumstances, occupational profile, medical and
psychosocial conditions will be collected.
Data that will be collected by interviewing the management of the
company will include the following:
History of the company, nature of the business, size, type of clients, tasks
of workers, etc.

Five call centers were visited. The operators of these call centers perform a
wide array of tasks.
The employees in one call center are engaged in internet real-time or online
communication or chatting for the duration of the work shift. The task
involves intensive interactive computer work. There is no verbal
interaction with the customers.

The next few slides will show the results of the preliminary survey.
The companies visited have operated between less than a year to 5 years.
All of the companies cater primarily to clients in the US.
As mentioned earlier, the tasks performed by the operators differed in
terms of extensiveness of computer use and vocal load. The tasks of the
operators in 4 companies involve talking on the telephone and computer
use. On the other, the task of operators in one company only involve
computer use.
The nature of the business also varied. All except for 1 are engaged in

Static posture from prolonged sitting, postural fixation when viewing the
computer monitor and repetitive movements are common occurrences in
computer-based tasks. And these we saw in 4 out 5 companies visited. In
the long run, these working posture may lead to muscle and joint pains.

Postures of 55 agents were directly observed and evaluated using the Rapid Upper Limb
Assessment checklist. Noted predominant postures are as follows (Table 9).
The agents had upward gaze. When working with monitor height settings above eye
level (seen in 39 out of 55 workstations),
Twisting of the head and the trunk to either side in all agents was brought about by
monitors placed either to the left or to the right of the agents.
The upper arms and shoulders were elevated in 43 agents because of the relatively high
keyboard height. Also, 28 agents assumed extremely flexed elbows.
The agents assumed awkward and sustained reaching position when using the mouse.

A self-administered questionnaire was given to the 75 participants a week before the


actual survey. Three agents returned the symptom survey for the musculoskeletal
disorders unanswered; 2 agents did not answer the eye, hearing and voice symptom
survey. Of the 72 who completely answered the forms, 5 females and 4 male agents
reported no symptom referable to the eyes, ears, voice and musculoskeletal system. At
least 1 symptom was reported by 63 agents. The distribution of complaints according to
the affected organ systems is given in the following slides.

Among the musculoskeletal disorders reported by the subjects, the highest frequencies
were seen for the upper back, neck and lower back, in descending order. Around 4
agents were unable to perform their usual work during the last 7 days because of pains in
the mentioned areas.

None of the agents surveyed complained of recent symptoms of hearing disorders.


However, in the past 6 months, the complaints of ear pain and ringing in the ear were
reported. Of the 73 agents, up to 53 (73%) responded to have at least one symptom of
voice disorder in the last 6 months. Those who have voice disorder symptoms in the last

The Occupational Safety and Health Center is supporting the development


of the call center industry and we believe that through this study
Knowledge will be gained to improve working conditions
In existing and prospective new call centers
Address the OSH problems at an early stage to avoid an
upsurge of safety and health-related issues
From our findings, we will be able to assist in the formulation of policy

Occupational safety and health concerns of non-industrial workers


are often times overlooked.
Through this project, the complex nature of health issues in call
centers as an example of non-industrial workplace is presented.