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CWU T&FS Conference Highlights Acoustic Shock Incidents In BT Call Centres

Despite years of concern being raised by the Union, and BT and CWU support and involvement in the Acoustic Research campaigns in 2005/2006, Acoustic Shock continues to damage the hearing of CWU members working in BT's call centres.

This website covered the acoustic safety conference of 2005, held in London.

You can download information on the issue of acoustic safety and hearing problems from the Unionsafety e-Library

Meridian CWU Branch health and safety officer, Martin Shaw alerted the Union's Annual Telecoms and Financial Services (T&FS) Conference to the continuing episodes of acoustic shock problems that BT has been so far unable to resolve.

The definition of Acoustic Shock was determined following the 2005 Acoustic Safety Conference that the CWU's National Health, Safety, and Environment Officer Dave Joyce spoke at:

'An acoustic incident is a sudden, unexpected, noise event which is perceived as loud, transmitted through a telephone or headset. Acoustic shock is an adverse response to an acoustic incident resulting in alteration of auditory function.'

There has been a problem in terms of risks to hearing, and hygiene of headsets for many years in the call centre industry as a whole, with CWU Union Safety Reps continuously highlighting the health and safety issues around headsets use and call distribution equipment. Indeed the CWU have been concerned about the specific problem of acoustic shock since the introduction of headset use in the workplace.

The terms of Motion 74:

Motion 74: We have noticed a significant increase in the number of Noise Interference Incidents within the Contact Centre environment over the last year or so.

Many of these we believe have caused severe damage to the members hearing e.g. hearing loss and tinnitus.
We feel that it would be beneficial to our members to evaluate their hearing at the earliest possible opportunity and a record kept should they suffer such an incident whilst working or indeed after prolonged wearing of headsets.

We would like to propose that all staff required to wear headsets for prolonged periods are given a comprehensive hearing test so that their individual hearing can be benched marked. Currently there is no way of telling if hearing has changed in any way after time on line or after an acoustic incident.

We would ask that current staff be tested as soon as possible and new staff to be tested whilst in training.

We instruct the T&FSE to enter into discussions with BT Group to establish this principle and for the Company to arrange such tests.


Source: CWU / unionsafety

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