November 18, 2006

Call Centers Are Dangerous Places...

Further to my theme of detailing the dangers of working in the modern era, I thought I would do some research on call centers.

This might sound crazy but I would bet that not many potential call center employees are warned of the dangers they will be facing every day as they answer their calls.

Dangerous... What could be dangerous about working in a call center?
  • You don't get to see the people you keep on hold for the weekend on a face to face basis...
  • The call center location could actually be in a different continent to the main client base they are forcing through navigation hell (you know, press 1 for this, 2 for that, 3 for this and that, 4 for something else, etc, etc, etc.

The danger I am talking about is not physical danger to your person but rather the danger of acoustic shock. What the dickens is acoustic shock I hear you muttering.

Well acoustic shock is hearing condition that you will experience if you are exposed to an unexpected loud and sudden noises.

Now for call center operators this is a daily occurrence.

I found the following definition of acoustic shock in an article at the Guardian

Acoustic shock is caused by exposure to a sudden increase in noise levels,
but people who are already anxious or under stress appear to be particularly
prone to it.

If the sound is made maliciously, such as someone screaming at the
caller down the line, it appears to increase the risk of damage. The noise
itself does not have to be particularly loud: around 90 decibels of sound -
equivalent to the sound of a lawn mower - is enough to create a response.

The crucial factor is its unexpectedness, which can leave the listener with muffled
hearing, dizziness and a constant ringing in the ear.

I think it is obvious that call center operators get shouted at on a regular basis, perhaps once a day, and in addition to the electronic screeches and noises they habitually have to put up with, it may become a little cleared to you why I contened thst these are dangerous places...

You see the damage sustained by being exposed to acoustic shock is permanent!

Many call center operators are left with an extreme sensitivity to any type of loud noise, hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of the dangers of their jobs...

Most call cernters are NOT warning their operators of these dangers for fear of claims. The report in the Gaurdian also states:

The number of people affected has not been measured, but the vast majority
are thought to be call centre workers who spend up to eight hours a day using
the telephone, often wearing headsets. At least 700 employees in the UK are
known to have reached an out-of-court settlement with companies since 1999,
after claiming they have suffered acoustic shock, leading to an estimated £3m in
payouts. A further 300 cases are pending, nearly all of them against call centre

Can you see why these call center operators are not warning their operators about these dangers?

Unfortunately many thousands of call center employees are at risk around the world and are ignorant of the risks they are facing everday and furthermore could be left permanently scarred and left to live a life struggling with tinnitus, hyperacusis and loss of hearing.

Nuff said?


Jam said...

Hi Tinnitus! I've posted a short discussion on possible health problems that call center personnel, especially agents can acquire while on the job plus my advice to prevent them.

Call centers are not really dangerous to work in, as long as you know how to avoid these ailments.

Dave Wykoff said...

Well I have a question you talked about Call centers, but my issue comes from the job I have held for the last 20 years as a Computer Operator. I worked in the Climate controlled Data Centers at major US corporations. Although OSHA checks the noise levels and claims that there is no 'Loud" noise. I had what I call severe tinnitus from the constant loud enough air flow from the huge blowers that circulates the air within the closed system. Both my ears are affected and life is not enjoyable there is never a moments peaceful enjoyment of quiet. Even watching TV or the movies does not cover the noise I hear every waking moment. My hearing was damaged by my job and I have no recourse. So are there any studies regarding long term exposure to extreme white noise and it affects on hearing?

Sean Priest said...

Not to sound discourteous, but your advice to prevent health problems from working in call centres is a little lacking.

Sean Priest said...
This comment has been removed by the author.