News round-up: Call Centres Choose Targets Over Safety; Local Authority Enforcement Consultation; Employers Flout Safety Equipment Obligations

Call centre problems highlight targets prioritised higher than safety

Unison, the trade union, recently carried out a study in which they interviewed 800 call centre workers. They found that one in four of them had their bathroom use restricted, half had problems with their hearing and their voice, and 7 in 10 reported suffering from eyestrain. 80% of those questioned said that their work caused them stress.

The restrictions on bathroom use were said to be a result of the large number of calls each worker is required to take, and Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said, "it is widely known that healthier staff are more productive and that putting all of the emphasis onto targets can be counter-productive.

"[...] That this survey has shown more than a quarter have their basic right to a toilet break restricted or monitors is bad enough, but the physical toll on call centre workers eyes, ears and voices – the tools of their trade – something that managers and organisations cannot ignore.

"Workers rightly expect their employees to have a duty of care not only to their physical health, but also to their mental well-being, and the findings of this survey – that eight in 10 are experiencing stress, a quarter of them to a damaging degree – must be addressed urgently."

Consultation on Local Authority Enforcement Consistency

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are to start a consultation to create a code of practice for local authorities to streamline their inspection and enforcement actions. The aim is that businesses throughout the country will receive the same treatment, regardless of who their local council is, and this should lead to more fair decisions, as well as consistency in health and safety practice, nationwide.

Plans for the consultation were revealed in the Executive’s three-year Business Plan, which is available to view on the HSE's website.

Employers Flouting Legal Obligations to Provide Safety Equipment for Workers

Under the law, employers must provide safety equipment for their workers. However, a recent survey by TUC has shown that as many as 1 in 10 construction have been required to purchase their own, as it was not supplied by the company, while another 10% have to pay for their own replacements, if the original equipment gets damaged.

The TUC heard from 2,684 people who filled in their questionnaire earlier this year.

The equipment in question, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is defined, by the HSE, as 'all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects against one or more risks to their health or safety e.g. safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses'.

The TUC explain, “It is illegal for an employer to charge for any safety equipment. The law also says that every employer has to ensure that any PPE provided to their employees is maintained (including replaced or cleaned as appropriate) in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair”.

They are calling for employers to obey the law and help to protect employees' safety by providing this essential equipment and keeping it in good condition, with no charge to the workers.

(Photo Credit: Alan Clark)

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