Project: Working voices

Peer reviewed and published

This project was submitted on 22/01/2014, published on 13/01/2011 by IOSH, and peer reviewed by IOSH

Call centre workers use their voice for prolonged periods, thus increasing their risk of occupational voice disorders. The lack of robust investigation into voice use and its impact on vocal performance represents a gap in occupational health and safety research.
The objectives of this study were to:
• investigate the work context and vocal communication demands for call agents
• evaluate call agents’ vocal health, awareness and performance
• identify key risks and training needs for employees and employers in call centres.

This was an occupational epidemiological study consisting of qualitative and quantitative approaches. It had three stages: interviews with senior call centre managers; a large-scale epidemiological online survey; and acoustic measurements in the actual work environment.

The interviews with the managers revealed that the vast majority of call centres do not provide vocal training. The acoustic data indicated that at the end of a telephone call the call agent’s voice may have become hoarse with fatigue and pitch variation compared to the start of the call. The structural equation modelling based on survey data showed that physiological voice production is significantly associated with psychosocial and medical health. A high risk group of call agents, identified as women who have recently started work in a call centre, who have received no vocal training and are off work on sick leave, is at significant risk of developing physiological voice problems. Those who reported having received vocal training in the workplace were at significantly lower risk of developing physiological voice problems. This study has identified the factors predisposing call centre workers to physiological and musculoskeletal voice problems, and has demonstrated a significant relationship between vocal health and medical and psychosocial health in these workers. The research has highlighted implications for vocal health and occupational safety, with recommendations for preventive care and further research.

Working voices.pdf
Human factors & behavioural safety, Musculoskeletal disorders, Occupational health & wellbeing, Training and education
Offices, Other, Public Sector, Telecommunications

Organisation: University of Ulster

School of Communication
Shore Road,
BT37 0QB,
Northern Ireland
028 7012 3456

Principal Investigator: Dr Diane Hazlett

Other Researchers: Dr Anne Moorhead and Dr Orla Duffy (School of Health Sciences)

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Institution of Occupational Safety and Health
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