Call Centres

The rapid expansion of the call centre industry in Australia has largely been driven by the need for organisations to adopt more cost-effective strategies for delivering services. Call centres have a unique working environment characterised by working practices that can present hazards, and systems of work that differ from those of other computer-based office jobs.

These Guidelines were developed in response to concerns over health and safety issues in call centres. They were developed in consultation with industry stakeholders represented by WorkCover’s Industry Reference Group for Business Services.

They are intended to:

  • Provide guidance on health and safety issues specific to call centres
  • Assist employers and employees to meet some of their occupational health and safety, workers compensation and injury management obligations.

The Guidelines outline how to:

  • Incorporate safety into daily operations
  • Improve current systems for eliminating or controlling risks
  • Help an ill or injured worker to get back to their job quickly and safely.

What is a Call Centre?

A ‘call centre’ (or ‘contact centre’) is a work area or workplace specifically dedicated to the use of telephone and/or computer technology that provides value-added services to clients. It is comprised of people whose primary function is to respond to inbound and/or outbound telephone traffic.

Call centres can operate in many industries. Some are separate entities whose core function is to provide call centre services to client organisations. Others exist as a division within an organisation, undertaking call centre functions specific to that organisation’s requirements. e.g. information provision, account enquiries, sales, marketing, surveys etc.

It’s The Law!

In NSW, health and safety of people at work is regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 (the OHS Act 2000) and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 (the OHS Regulation 2001). These set out the legal obligations for various parties (in particular, employers and employees) in the workplace.

The purpose of the legislation is to prevent injury and illness in the workplace. Legislation and other information can be downloaded from the WorkCover NSW website.

Clause 45 of the NSW OHS Regulation 2001 states that employers must ensure that:

  • Sufficient workspace is provided to allow persons to work safely;
  • Floors and surfaces are constructed and maintained to minimise the possibility of slips, trips and falls; and
  • Persons are not hindered and able to move safely around a place of work.

In relation to employees, the OHS Act 2000 requires you to provide:

  • A safe workplace, and safe means of entry to and exit from the workplace
  • Equipment, machinery or chemicals that are safe, when used properly
  • A safe and healthy working environment, and safe and healthy methods and procedures (systems) for working
  • Adequate information, instruction, training and supervision for all workers
  • Adequate facilities and first aid for employees
  • A process for consultation with workers
  • Processes for identifying hazards, assessing risks and eliminating or controlling those risks.

Potential Hazards

Any workplace may present hazards to a worker’s physical and/or psychological health and safety. Although these Guidelines do not address every hazard within call centres, they provide a framework for identifying and managing workplace hazards. Each workplace may present hazards unique to that workplace.

The following list, developed through consultation with industry and a review of call centre literature, reflects the nature of the work carried out by call centre operators, the work environment of call centres, and workers compensation claims data. The list identifies factors that may give rise to hazards in the workplace, due to poor design or other causes. They include:

  • Workstation design (including its relationship to poor posture)
  • Working space
  • Lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Telephone headset use
  • Background noise
  • Manual handling tasks (including repetitive keyboard tasks)
  • Psychological environment.

PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

WORKSTATIONS

Providing employees with ergonomically designed and correctly adjusted workstation furniture/equipment can reduce the risk of a range of occupational injuries caused by overuse, poor posture and poor lighting. You should also provide appropriate training in the correct use of ergonomic workstation equipment and furniture.

Australian Standard AS 3590.2-1990: Screen-based workstations-Workstation Furniture provides guidance in correct set-up of workstations that can be applied to call centre employees.

Chairs

Call centre operators should have ergonomic chairs that are adjustable, comfortable and have good back support.

Correctly adjusted chairs help the worker to:

  • Maintain correct body posture
  • Maintain good blood circulation
  • Reduce muscular effort
  • Decrease pressure on their back

Chairs should:

  • Swivel
  • Have a five-leg star base for stability
  • Have breathable fabric on the seat
  • Have a rounded front edge
  • Have adjustable seat height and backrest for lumbar support

If your workers are employed in shift-work and, as a result, with the result that chairs are used 24-hours per day and up to seven days per week, the chairs need to be of robust construction, accommodate all potential users, and provide a high level of comfort and good postural support – without frequent maintenance.

DESKS

Consider adjustable desk heights to accommodate people of various heights who may share workstations, such as shift workers. If the height adjustment mechanism on the desk is mechanical, it should be located within easy reach of the operator. In call centres, where more than one worker uses the desk during the course of a shift (hotdesking), consider electronic adjustment.

The size of the desk or workbench must be sufficient for all equipment, task materials/references and the tasks the worker performs.

All equipment and task materials on or around the desk should be within comfortable reach. There should be no over-reaching or unnecessary twisting of any part of the body. The diagram below outlines the correct work surface layout, with the most frequently used objects placed within easy reach.

OTHER WORKSTATION EQUIPMENT

Other equipment used at a workstation should be ergonomically designed and positioned. This may include:

  • The computer monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Mouse pad
  • Document holder.

See Diagram 1 for the correct workstation set-up.To decrease the likelihood of an injury associated with tasks performed at a workstation, employees should:

  • Change posture often to minimise fatigue
  • Avoid awkward postures at the extremes of the joint range, especially the wrists
  • Avoid unnecessary swiveling in their chair, especially when attempting to reach and twist at the same time
  • Take frequent short rests (every hour), rather than infrequent longer rests
  • Not be subjected to sudden increases in workload (including keyboard work), particularly after a prolonged
  • Absence from work, or on return to work after injury/illness.

WORKING SPACE

Chapter 4 of the OHS Regulation 2001 states that employers must ensure that:

  • Sufficient work space is provided to allow people to work safely
  • Floors and surfaces are constructed and maintained to minimise the possibility of slips, trips and falls
  • People are not hindered and are able to move safely around a place of work.

The WorkCover publication Health and Safety in the Office contains recommendations on personal workspace for office work.

Lighting

Adequate artificial and natural lighting that does not create excessive glare or reflection must also be considered to ensure the safety of people at work. Improper lighting may cause workers to adopt incorrect postures to avoid excessive glare or reflection, and/or eyestrain.

The basic rule for adequate lighting for call centre employees is that the work must be easy to see and the light comfortable to the eyes.

You should avoid workbench or desk surfaces and office fittings with reflective surfaces.

Illumination is measured in units of LUX-lumens per square metre. Recommended light levels based on Australian Standard AS 1680.2.2-1994: Interior lighting – office and screen-based tasks are:

  • General background 160 lux
  • Tasks involving typing, reading, writing 320 lux

Sharp differences in illumination between adjacent areas should be avoided. Ideally, the area surrounding the work area itself should be slightly less illuminated. Light should fall from the side rather than from the front to avoid reflection on the work surface.

Ventilation

Employers must ensure that adequate ventilation and air movement is provided in indoor environments that may become hot. Further guidance on ventilation can be found in Australian Standard AS 1668: Mechanical ventilation for acceptable indoor air quality and AS 1668.2-2002: The use of ventilation and air conditioning in buildings-ventilation design for indoor air contaminant control and Chapter 4, Clause 47 and 53, of the OHS Regulation 2001.

Telephone Headset Use

Most, if not all, call centre operators use headsets to attend to inbound/outbound calls. Lightweight adjustable headsets with a volume control should be provided for call centre operators.

Headset use may present some risks to health and safety, relating to:

  • Noise interference
  • Infection control

Noise Interference

Call centre operators may hear ‘crackling’, distorted sounds, or customers that are difficult to hear or understand.

In this situation, the operator may need to increase their concentration and listen more attentively, causing mental fatigue and increased muscle tension.

For many years, national and international literature has discussed the issue of ‘acoustic shock’ (or ‘acoustic trauma’) amongst telephone users. ‘Acoustic shock’ is a term given to unexpected, loud or high-pitched sounds heard through a telephone line. It may be caused by telephone faults, incorrectly dialed fax machines or, in some cases, impatient and irate customers who blow whistles directly into the telephone.

Call centres should consider ways to reduce noise levels emitted through the telephone line and have in place systems of work that enable staff to identify and report any hazards that arise. Call centre staff should be provided training on plugging in, volume control, background noise management and other hazards.

Infection Control

Infection is the result of a harmful living agent (e.g. bacteria, viruses etc) entering the body and multiplying. These agents can enter the body of another person through the skin, mouth, or the nose or mucous membranes. Infection can be present without any visible symptoms of illness.

Due to the close proximity of headsets to the mouth and external ear canal, it is important to prevent the spread of ear and respiratory infections among call centre operators. Sharing of headsets should be avoided, and appropriate cleaning and maintenance procedures implemented.

Background Noise

In addition to the noise produced from headsets, the workplace itself can expose call centre employees to high levels of noise. Call centres generally have a partitioned, open- plan office layout to house individual workstations. Therefore, call centre operators are often exposed to noise from ringing phones, voices of fellow operators attending to calls or involved in conversations with co-workers, and noise produced by office equipment.

Call centre operators can be prone to mental fatigue and increased muscle tension as they increase their concentration and listen more attentively to customers, in an effort to cope with excessive environmental noise.

Chapter 4, Clause 49, of the OHS Regulation 2001 requires employers to avoid exposing employees to excessive noise levels.

The prevention or minimisation of background noise is best managed when the call centre is being designed. This ensures that the workplace layout will minimise noise, and office fittings, fixtures and surfaces are noise absorbing. Noise levels of office equipment, such as photocopiers, should also be taken into account in determining their location in a call centre environment.

Manual Handling Tasks and Keyboard Work

Manual handling is any activity requiring a person to use force to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain an object.

For call centre employees, manual handling can include tasks such as moving boxes of supplies, filing, getting equipment from cupboards, and filling the photocopying machine with paper. It can also include keying tasks. Keyboard work may expose call centre employees to the risk of musculoskeletal injury (i.e. overuse of soft tissue resulting in injuries to the hands, wrists, shoulders, neck and back) as a result of awkward, static and/or repetitive working postures.

The National Standard for Manual Handling [NOHSC: 1001 (1990)] and the National Code of Practice for Manual Handling [NOHSC: 2005 (1990)] outline a number of risk factors, which increase the likely development of a musculoskeletal injury. These include:

  • Working posture and position (e.g. sitting at a workstation with the neck tilted backwards to view the computer monitor, or adopting an awkward posture when filling the photocopier with paper)
  • Repetition (e.g. keyboard data entry performed each time a phone call is answered) and duration (the length of time a worker is exposed to a risk factor, such as repetitive movement or awkward and/or static posture)
  • Workplace and workstation layout (includes all the components of the workplace– such as, equipment, materials and work surfaces – used for a work task)
  • Work organisation (the way work is organised in relation to staffing levels, pace of work and rest breaks).

The National Code of Practice for the Prevention of Occupational Overuse Syndrome [NOHSC: 2013 (1994)] provides practical guidance in meeting the requirements of the National Standard for Manual Handling [NOHSC: 1001 (1990)] with respect to the prevention of risks, and the identification, assessment and control of risks.

WorkCover’s publication Health and Safety in the Office also provides information that may be useful to call centres on common hazards in the physical environment.

ELECTRICAL ISSUES

Chapter 4, Clause 40 and 41, of the OHS Regulation 2001 contains specific requirements for electrical installations and equipment in the workplace. Employers must ensure that all electrical installations and equipment are safe to use and regularly inspected, tested, maintained, and repaired or replaced if unsafe for use.

This requirement covers, but is not limited to, equipment such as:

  • Computer equipment
  • Faxes
  • Photocopiers
  • Extension leads
  • Kitchen appliances.

Risks can arise from the presence of electrical cables and cords in work areas. These should be effectively addressed. A cable/cord management strategy can help prevent slips, trips and falls and electrical risks that may arise as a result of the placement of those cables/cords.All electrical installation work should be carried out in accordance with the Standard AS/NZS 3000:2000 Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules). Further information on the requirements for inspecting and testing electrical equipment is available in the Australian Standard AS 3760:2000 In-service safety inspections and testing of electrical equipment. Australian Standards are available by contacting Standards Australia on 1300 654 646.

SECURITY

Adequate provision must be made to ensure the safety of employees and others in the workplace, including security when they are entering or leaving the workplace. Given that many call centres operate outside normal (i.e. daytime) business hours, you may consider a secure carpark and/or an escorted security service as a means of controlling security risks. Also consider restricting access to workplace buildings and the call centre itself.

If an employee’s job requires the handling of cash, measures should be implemented to address the security risks. WorkCover’s guide, Armed Hold-ups and Cash Handling, provides guidance in this area.

VIOLENCE

Violence includes:

  • Verbal abuse (in person or over the telephone)
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Threats
  • Ganging up/bullying/intimidation
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Armed robbery
  • Malicious damage to the property of staff, customers or the business.

Violence may arise in the course of working with clients, or even from co-workers or management. A person’s response to a violent act is generally unique to the individual’s life experiences, coping skills and personality.

Chapter 2, Clause 9(2) (j) of the OHS Regulation 2001 places obligations on employers to identify and eliminate potentially abusive situations, violence or intimidation from their workplace, regardless of the source.

WorkCover’s Violence in the Workplace Guide 2002 and Managing Workplace Violence in the Finance Sector provide further information on this issue.

SMOKING

Passive smoking means breathing in environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), including the smoke of other people. Passive smoking is recognised as a significant health hazard and the majority of workplaces in NSW have now adopted smoke-free policies. Certain designated public places, and public places that are also workplaces, are subject to the provisions of the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 and must be kept smoke-free.

Further information on the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 can be obtained from the Department of Health, Tobacco and Health Unit on (02) 9391 9111.

To control ETS, smoking should be eliminated from all indoor areas.

Employers should:

  • Develop a written non-smoking policy in consultation with employees
  • Designate indoor areas as non-smoking
  • Inform all staff through meetings, training, memos and notice boards
  • Post signs using easily recognised symbols, clearly indicating to staff and the public that smoking is not permitted in indoor areas.

The WorkCover publication, Passive Smoking-Policy and Control 2000 provides further information on smoking in the workplace.

Risk Management Process

The OHS risk management process provides employers with the information they need to make decisions about how best to avoid or control the impact of workplace hazards. The process is comprised of a four-step cycle:

Step 1: Identify hazards in the workplace. You can do this by:

  • Reviewing past injury/illness and accident investigation records
  • Talking to employees
  • Doing a walk round inspection of the workplace
  • Analysing the way work tasks are performed.

Hazards associated with call centres can arise in many broad contexts. Some of these are:

  • Manual tasks (e.g. working postures, repetition and duration)
  • Work environment (e.g. workstation, psychological factors, lighting)
  • Noise (e.g. background noise, headset use)
  • Plant (e.g. equipment, machinery, appliances)
  • Substances (e.g. chemicals)

Energy (e.g. electricity)

The list above may be used as a guide to assist in identifying hazards in your workplace.

The Employer Safety Checklist for Call Centres (Appendix 1) provides a useful mechanism for identifying hazards.

Other ways include:

  • Reviewing current systems and work procedures
  • Regularly consulting with employees to see if they have identified hazards
  • Acting on OHS complaints.

When looking for hazards employers should consider:

  • The suitability of workers’ equipment and their work location
  • How people use equipment and materials
  • How people might be affected by noise, fumes, lighting, and other environmental factors
  • The potential for people to be hurt by equipment, machinery or tools
  • The potential for people to be affected by chemicals and other substances used in the workplace.

The Risk Management Form (Appendix 3) can be used as a tool to record the results of the OHS risk management process and keep track of decisions about who will be responsible for eliminating or controlling each risk.

In the example below, a call centre has identified ‘prolonged static working postures’ as a hazard in the workplace.

Hazard
Risk Priority
Controls
Person responsible for action and by when
Date completed
Severity
Likelihood
Priority
Prolonged static working postures

Once all the hazards have been identified, employers need to find out whether there is any guidance material, minimum standards or legislation governing the particular hazard. This can be done by contacting any of the organisations listed in the ‘Contacts’ section of these Guidelines. Where such information exists, it should be followed and/or implemented immediately. If no information is found, then employers need to proceed to the next stage to find out how to ‘assess’ the risks that each hazard may create.

Step 2: Assess Risks to determine the likelihood of an incident arising from the identified hazard, and the severity (i.e. seriousness) of the outcome if an incident did occur.

In assessing the risk, you should:

  • Review the available health and safety information relevant to the hazard
  • Identify the factors contributing to its risk, including:
  • The work environment
  • The capability, skill, experience and age of the people ordinarily doing the work
  • The system of work being used
  • Any reasonably foreseeable abnormal conditions
  • Identify what records are necessary.

Once you have done this, you should prioritise the risks to determine which ones you should address first.
a) First, determine how severely someone could be hurt by selecting one of the following consequences for each hazard identified and recording the relevant symbol under ‘severity’ on the Risk Management Form (Appendix 3):
X could kill or cause permanent disability or ill health
!!! Long-term illness or serious injury
!! Medical attention and several days off work
! First aid treatment needed and no time off work.

Consider:

  • The potential for the hazard to become more serious, and
  • Individual differences between employees, including physical and psychological health.

b) Second, determine how likely it is that an incident will occur in relation to the hazard identified and record the relevant symbol under ‘likelihood’ on the Risk Management Form (Appendix 3):

VL: Very likely could happen anytime
L: Likely could happen occasionally
UL: Unlikely could happen, but only rarely
VUL: very unlikely could happen, but probably never will.

Consider:
a) The number of times a situation arises
b) The number of people potentially exposed, the duration of their exposure, and their skills/experience
c) The location of the hazard relative to people
d) The quantities of materials or possible points of exposure
e) Environmental conditions
f) The condition of equipment
g) The effectiveness of existing control measures
h) Any special factors that might affect the likelihood of an occurrence.
c) Now match the severity and likelihood of exposure on the Risk Priority Chart below to rank risks in terms of their priority, and record the number under ‘priority’ on the Risk Management Form (Appendix 3):

Risk Priority Chart

Severity
Likelihood
Very Likely
Could happen anytime.
Likely
Could happen at some time.
Unlikely
Could happen but very rarely.
Very Unlikely
Could happen but probably never will.
X Kill or cause permanent disability or ill health.
1
1
2
3
!!! Long term illness or serious injury.
1
2
3
4
!! Medical attention and several days off work.
2
3
4
5
! First Aid Needed.
3
4
5
6

The numbers (1-6) in the Risk Priority Chart indicate how important it is to do something about each risk.

1-2 = Do something about these risks immediately
3-4 = Do something about these risks as soon as possible
5-6 = These risks may not need your immediate attention.

In the example below, where the identified hazard is ‘prolonged static working postures’, the risk associated with this hazard has been assessed by recording the ‘severity’ as having the potential to cause ‘serious injury’, represented by this symbol: ë!!!’, and the ‘likelihood’ being ‘very likely’ to occur, represented by this symbol: ‘VL’. Given the high likelihood and severity the risk is ranked as a Priority ‘1’, which means that this risk should be addressed immediately, as a top priority.

Hazard
Risk Priority
Controls
Person responsible for action and by when
Date completed
Severity
Likelihood
Priority
Prolonged static working postures
!!!
VL
1

Remember: you may decide that the same hazard could lead to several different possible outcomes. So for each hazard judge how likely each possible outcome is and record the highest priority.

Step 3: Control risks by deciding and applying what needs to be done to remove or control the risks to health and safety.

Elimination:
This is the most effective approach, and OHS legislation requires employers to try to remove the hazard completely before trying the other means of controlling risks identified below. Examples of eliminating a hazard would be, discontinuing dangerous work practices or removing hazardous substances or equipment from the workplace. In a call centre, excessive keying to record large amounts of data may give rise to the risk of musculoskeletal injury as a result of overuse of soft tissue in the neck, shoulders, back, hands and/or wrists. Employers may decide that this information can be entered in other ways that requires less keying, for example by using improved software design.

If this is not possible, then they must prevent or reduce exposure to the risk to the lowest possible level by trying to apply methods (b) and then (c), in order of priority:

Substitution:
Replace the hazard with a less hazardous option. For example, replace a work process, material or equipment. In a call centre, the chemical currently used to clean/disinfect headsets might be replaced with another cleaning fluid that gives rise to less risk than the current chemical being used.

Isolation/Engineering: Isolate the hazard from people by making changes to the work environment or practices so that exposure is minimised, or redesign equipment or work practices so that work can be done differently. For example, office resources such as photocopiers, printers and faxes may be creating excessive background noise affecting employees. The employer should relocate such office equipment to a separate area away from employees.

If none of the options above are possible, as a last resort, use options (d) or (e) as temporary measures, to reduce the likelihood of risk while a more permanent solution is found, and/or to supplement other controls:


Administrative Controls:
Reduce the risk by improved supervision, instruction, training, job rotation or adjusting rosters, etc. For example, employers should introduce regular breaks away from calls into call centre rosters to reduce the exposure of employees to risks of physical and psychological injury.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
Only use PPE when you can’t reduce the likelihood of risk in any other way. For example, the use of a wrist support might reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury.
In practice, several control options are often used in combination to reduce the risk of injury of illness. Measures, such as administrative controls and PPE, are often used as interim solutions while permanent solutions are implemented.

In a call centre, for example, you can apply ‘substitution’ to control ‘prolonged static working postures’ by redesigning the job and furniture or equipment to encourage changes in posture. This control measure should be supplemented by training (i.e. administrative control) to ensure employees have a good understanding of the risks associated with the identified hazard and how job redesign can control exposure to the risk. This is recorded on the Risk Management Form (Appendix 3), as shown below:

Hazard
Risk Priority
Controls
Person responsible for action and by when
Date completed
Severity
Likelihood
Priority
Prolonged static working postures
!!!
VL
1
1. Job/equipment redesign to permit postural changes.
2. Training in the above.

Now you need to decide who will be responsible for implementing the controls and then ensuring that they have been completed.

Hazard
Risk Priority
Controls
Person responsible for action and by when
Date completed
Severity
Likelihood
Priority
Prolonged static working postures
!!!
VL
1
1. Job/equipment redesign to permit postural changes.
2. Training in the above.
Team Manager/ Supervisor
28.06.02Supervisor
10.07.02

24.06.2002

10.07.2002

To ensure that control measures operate effectively, you should consider the following:

  • Develop safe work procedures to ensure employees know how to do the job properly and safely
  • Communicate and consult with employees and others about the control measures and the reasons for their implementation
  • Provide training for employees, particularly where changes in work procedures occur as a result of the implementation of the control measures
  • Supervise employees to verify that the control measures are effective and that they are following procedures
  • Maintain the control measures to ensure their ongoing effectiveness. Also, specify review and maintenance procedures for the new control measures as part of routine work practices.

Step 4: Monitor and Review – once the controls have been implemented, employers should monitor and review the measures that were applied by consulting with employees to ensure they are working, and identify safer ways of doing things.

Here are some things employers need to consider when monitoring and reviewing control measures:

  • Are they in place?
  • Are they being used?
  • Are they being used correctly?
  • Are they working?

Hazards may change from time to time as the workplace and procedures change. Employers should set up a routine of periodic hazard checks (e.g. performing regular inspections and safety audits) and establish a date to review the entire risk management process.

Safe Work Procedures

The tasks and jobs people perform can expose them to hazards associated with the equipment and chemicals they use, the work environment, and the physical nature of the tasks themselves. Therefore, safe work procedures should be developed for those tasks that are likely to put the health and safety of employees at risk.

These procedures should be developed or reviewed when:

  • A new job or task will be introduced
  • Changes are planned to a job or task
  • New equipment or chemicals to the workplace will be introduced
  • There is a problem (after an accident or incident that suggests the procedures are inadequate)
  • A health and safety issue is identified.

Employers should analyse work procedures in the context of the approach to OHS risk management described earlier. The procedure should note and assess the potential OHS problems and identify the measures that are to be taken to eliminate or reduce the risks for the particular task. Once the procedures are developed, employers must ensure that employees receive adequate information, instruction, training and supervision in the procedures.

This is an example of a very basic safe work procedure that may be used in a call centre operation for the task ‘attending to inbound/outbound calls:

TASK SAFE WORK PROCEDURE

TASK
SAFE WORK PROCEDURE
Attending to inbound/outbound calls

Incorporate regular changes to posture

Avoid prolonged static working postures

Ensure training in correct working posture has been completed.

Remember, employers should ensure that employees receive adequate information, instruction, training and supervision in all procedures.

WorkCover’s guides, Workplace Safety Kit Guide 2001 and Small Business Safety Starter Kit Guide 2001, provide good information on how to write effective safe work procedures.

Purchasing Procedures

To introduce risk management into a purchasing procedure, employers need to consider:

  • What hazards are associated with the purchase?
  • What risks will the purchase introduce? And
  • What strategies need to be implemented to control risks?

Employers can do this using the checklist below whenever a purchasing decision is considered.

SE/COMMENT

ISSUES
RESPONSE/COMMENT
1. What is the proposed purchase item?
2. What safety information has been obtained regarding the item?
q Equipment manual
q MSDS (for chemical purchases)
q Australian Standards
q Other safety information
3. Which employees and work processes are affected by the purchase?
4. Have the affected employees been consulted?
When?
5. What are the health and safety risks relevant to the purchase?
6. How will the purchase help manage the risks?
7. What has to be done to ensure the use, storage and transport of the purchase is safe?
8. What change will need to be made to Safe Work Procedures?
9. What training will be required before the use of the purchase?

Remember, employers must ensure that employees receive adequate information, instruction, training and supervision in all procedures.

WorkCover’s Guides, Workplace Safety Kit Guide 2001 and Small Business Safety Starter Kit Guide 2001, provide good information on how to write effective purchasing procedures.

Information and Resources

NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000

NSW Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001

NSW Workers Compensation Act 1987

NSW Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998

Workplace Amenities Code of Practice 2001, WorkCover NSW

First Aid in the Workplace Guide 2001, WorkCover NSW

OHS Consultation Code of Practice 2001, WorkCover NSW

Risk Management at Work Guide 2001, WorkCover NSW

Risk Assessment Code of Practice 2001, WorkCover NSW

Armed Hold-ups and Cash Handling, WorkCover NSW

Violence in the Workplace Guide 2002, WorkCover NSW

Managing Workplace Violence in the Finance Sector, WorkCover NSW and Business Services IRG

Smoke-free Environment Act 2000

Passive Smoking-Policy and Control 2000, WorkCover NSW

Workplace Safety Kit Guide 2001, WorkCover NSW

Small Business Safety Starter Kit Guide 2001, WorkCover NSW

Checklists

Employer Safety Checklist for Call Centres

This checklist is based on the potential hazards identified in these Guidelines. It is not a comprehensive list of all hazards within call centres. You must apply the OHS risk management process (Appendix 2) for all foreseeable hazards that have been identified whether or not they have been outlined in this checklist.

If a box is not ticked, something should be done about that issue
Tick if YES
Training
Have employees been educated/trained to recognise poor ergonomic risk factors (i.e. awkward postures, repetitive and sustained movements, and forces) associated with Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS)?
q
Have employees been trained in the correct adjustment of workstation furniture to enable them to achieve neutral postures (as shown in Diagram 1)?
q
Chairs
Is the seat height adjustable for the range of users within the workforce?
q
From a seated position, can the height of the chair be easily adjusted?
q
From a seated position, can the backrest be easily adjusted for height and angle?
q
Is the seat pan width and depth adequate and comfortable when sitting?
q
Do employees’ elbows avoid hitting the backrest and armrest (if provided) when performing their job?
q
Can the computer screen be adjusted for height and viewing distance from the seated position?
q
Desks
Is the desk height adjustable between 580mm & 730mm?
q
If ‘no’, is there a height adjustable chair and footrest available to achieve neutral postures (as shown in Diagram 1)?
q
Is the desk depth sufficient for the computer screen, keyboard, and document holder?
q
Is the desk wide enough for the task?
q
Is the top surface non-reflective?
q
Is there adequate leg space under the desk?
q
Other equipment
If necessary, do employees have the choice of using footrests to achieve correct lower limb postures?
q
If necessary, do employees have the choice of using document holders?
q
Telephone headset use
Is the background noise level low enough that operators do not have to turn up the volume of their headsets?
q
Are the operators’ headsets free from sudden bursts of loud noise, such as line interference?
q
Are operators provided with individual headsets?
q
Is there a system of maintaining and exchanging faulty headsets?
q
Are the headsets cleaned on a regular basis, and cleaned prior to issuing to another operator to avoid the spread of infections?
q
General
Are there clear procedures for employees to report defective equipment?
q
Is defective equipment promptly fixed or replaced?
q
Are employees allowed sufficient time to make correct adjustments to their desks and chairs before they start work?
q
Working space
Is there adequate space (e.g. for equipment/furniture used at workstations) for employees to work safely?
q
Are employees able to move unhindered and safely around the workplace?
q
Are the floors and surfaces constructed and maintained to minimise the risk of slips, trips and falls?
q
Manual handling tasks and keyboard work[1]
Are the job tasks free from:
q
Awkward postures (static, non-neutral angles of body joints)
q
Repetitive movements (more than twice a minute)
q
Repetitive or sustained force (for more than 30 seconds at a time)
q
Long durations (more than 2 hours over a whole shift or continuously for more than 30 minutes)
q
Large force (e.g. lifting loads in excess of 4.5kg whilst seated)
q
Lighting
Is the lighting level at the workstation adequate for the task?
q
Is the workplace free of excessive glare or reflection?
q
Is adequate lighting provided to allow employees to work safely in the workplace?
q
Ventilation
Does the ventilation and air movement in the work environment provide adequate thermal comfort throughout the year for the majority of employees?
q
Psychological environment
Are employees provided with sufficient information, instruction, training, and supervision to allow them to do their job?
q
Does regular consultation occur with employees about aspects of their work (e.g. conduct of performance monitoring, shiftwork, etc) that may affect their psychological health?
q
Are operators provided with adequate and regular breaks from calls?
q
Are there systems in place for operators to deal with angry, dissatisfied clients?
q
Are the operators trained in the above system to deal with these clients?
q
Are employees provided with opportunities to discuss work tasks, performance and feedback issues with their supervisors?
q
Are employees given the opportunity to participate fully in setting achievable performance targets and the method of conducting performance monitoring?
q

 

FAQ’S

What are the employers’ obligations in dealing with electrical hazards throughout the call centre?

Employers must ensure that all electrical installations and equipment are safe to use and regularly inspected, tested, maintained, and repaired or replaced if unsafe for use.

This requirement covers, but is not limited to, equipment such as:
Computer equipment
Faxes
Photocopiers
Extension leads
Kitchen appliances.

What are the different hazards I may find in a call centre?
Workstation design (including its relationship to poor posture)
Working space
Lighting
Ventilation
Telephone headset use
Background noise
Manual handling tasks (including repetitive keyboard tasks)
Psychological environment.

What are my employer’s OHS responsibilities?

You’re employer’s OHS responsibilities include:
Ensuring the workforce complies with OHS legal requirements
Providing a safe workplace and safe ways of working
Providing ways for employees to be informed about and consulted on health and safety issues at work
Ensuring that all documents related to safe work procedures are kept up-to-date
Consulting with workers on safety matters providing the resources necessary to allow everyone in the organisation to comply with their health and safety responsibilities.

What must my employer consider when getting new desk for our workplace?

Your employer must consider the following

Adjustable desk heights to accommodate people of various heights who may share workstations, such as shift workers. If the height adjustment mechanism on the desk is mechanical, it should be located within easy reach of the operator. In call centres, where more than one worker uses the desk during the course of a shift (hotdesking), consider electronic adjustment.

Is there anywhere that gives guidance on ventilation in the workplace?

The size of the desk or workbench must be sufficient for all equipment, task materials/references and the tasks the worker performs.

You can find guidance on ventilation from the Australian Standard publication: AS 1668: Mechanical ventilation for acceptable indoor air quality and AS 1668.2-2002: The use of ventilation and air conditioning in buildings-ventilation design for indoor air contaminant control and Chapter 4, Clause 47 and 53, of the OHS Regulation 2001.

 

More info:

Manual Tasks Advisory Standard 2000 – Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995

Code of Practice for Manual Handling 2000 – Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985

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