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New occupational safety and health act 2005

CHAPTER 6 Recommendation and conclusion

The new Occupational Safety and Health Act 2005 make provision for how to cater and promote health, safety and welfare in working environments. The law makes health, safety and welfare provision not only for workers in the private and public sectors but also for expatriates, self-employed and guest employees. Indeed, one of the main objectives of this act is to reinforce, consolidate and update the legislation on safety and health at work to match the changes in the working conditions of employees brought by new technologies, plants and equipments as well as new hazards. As per section 5 of OSHA05 the employer has general duties as follows:

5. General Duties

  1. Every employer shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees.
  2. The employer shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, in particular
  3. a)

    1. provide and maintain a working environment;
    2. provide and maintain any plant or system of work;
    3. maintain any place of work under his control, including the means of access to, or egress from it, that is safe and without risks to health;

    b) ensure that use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances is safe and withoutrisks to health;

    c) provide and maintain adequate facilities and arrangements for the welfare at work of his employees;

    d) provide information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure the safety and health at work of his employees;

    e) ensure that any person not in his employment is not exposed to any risk to his safety or health.

  4. Every employer shall consult representatives of his employees who sit on the Safety and Health Committee with a view to the making and maintenance of arrangements, which will enable him and his employees to cooperate effectively in promoting and developing measures to ensure the safety and health at work of the employees, and in checking the effectiveness of such measures.

After a thorough investigation of the problem has been made and results obtained and analysed, the following recommendations have been made concerning the factors affecting agent's well-being and performance taking into account the different provision made under the OSHA05

6.1 Solutions to nature of the work

In Chapter 4, figure 4.1 clearly shows that with respect to nature of work in call centres, opinion of respondents varied. The majority agree that call centre work was monotonous, tiresome, high demanding, stressful and they were usually referred as emotional labour. It is known that the Human Resource Department has a crucial role to provide support to employees' well-being within the organisation. Hence the following corrective actions should be taken at management level:

6.2 SOLUTIONS TO PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

It has been prove that a pleasant and agreeable physical environment can be a useful instrument to reduce stress and enhance employee well-being and occupational health. Hence appropriate control measure should be implemented with respect to the findings illustrated in figure 3.1 and in Table 7.2.

First of all, it has been noted that despite adopting good working postures, workers may suffer from musculoskeletal disorders from extended work in the same posture or from sitting still for prolonged periods. Hence the agents should be informed how to change their working position frequently throughout the day:

However, management should see whether the chair provided to the agents are in good condition and repair. The basic parts of the chair such as back rest, seat and armrest are important elements to be considered for a safe and creative workstation:

Armrests, if provided, should be soft, allow relaxation of the shoulders and elbows to be close to the body. If the armrests cannot be properly adjusted, or if the worker feels that they interfere with the workstation and the amount of space, he/she may remove them or stop using them. Adjustable armrests may be positioned such that they support the lower arm and allow the upper arm to be close to the torso within a 90 to 120 degrees range.

It has been found that there is a strong relationship between the position of the VDU and employees suffering from ophthalmic migraine and a relationship between lighting system and visual fatigue. Therefore appropriate control measure should be implemented such as:

6.3 Solutions to health and social effects of shift work

From the results in figure 5.1 and 5.2 respectively it was found that shift work was a major issue in call centre. The effect of shift work on the Circadian Rhythm of agents and this variation in turn was the major cause of Circadian Rhythm Sleeping Disorder. CRSD especially lack of sleep has proved to have an impact both the well-being and performance of the agents. Moreover, sleep loss was not the only issue as shift work also causes family conflicts, difficulties to maintain a normal social life and hobbies and leisure activities. Below is a set of recommendation that management can adopt to minimise both the health and social effects of shift work.

1. Safe procedure

Change in shift rosters/ schedule has proved to have an adverse effect on working and social lives of agents can. Management and employees should work in close collaboration to find solutions to control the health and social effect of shift work. Shift schedules should be developed and agreed by both the management and employees. Before any shift schedules is introduced it is important to identify the need for change to the existing shift system, the benefits and problems encountered by employees from the current shift. Moreover, if there has been mutual agreement between management and employees, appropriate information about the health and safety effects of shift work must be provided.

2. Length of shifts and working hours

The recommended number of working hours as per section 14 of the Employment Rights Act 2008 shall consist of 8 hours and may begin on any day of the week. However, a worker working on a shift work system may be required to work in excess but there should be a mutual agreement between the employer and employee on the number of hours of work to be performed.

Night Shift

Night shift is more frequent in call centres. Since it is difficult to remove the night shift system and because they work in collaboration with foreign companies, proper control measures should be adopted. As mentioned above in section 14 of the ERA08 night shifts also should not exceed the prescribed 8 hours.

Taking into account the circadian rhythm, it has been proved that the least activities happen at night, hence it is important to review the amount of work allocated to night shift agents and ensure that it is kept to the minimum. When scheduling night shift, management should make arrangements that there are enough agents working to prevent that any employee is not overloaded with work which will increase the stress.

Breaks during shifts

Planning of adequate and regular breaks usually two consecutive pauses of 15 minutes and meal break of 30 minutes are essential. Employers should encourage agents to take meal breaks time appropriately and not shorten to be able to complete their work and finish early. Moreover, it is vital to inform the agents the importance of the meal break rather than only smoking and going back to work. Appropriate meal will help to reduce digestive problem resulting from shift work. Canteen facilities should be provided with hot and nutritious meals and proper facilities for those who want to reheat their own food.

Rest days

During shift scheduling, rest days should be well planned. The ERA08 make provision for rest day. Section14 (5) clearly mention that workers should be entitles to two nights full sleep in every period of 7 consecutive days. The rosters should be design in such a way that the agents have at least twice a month a full or a half weekend free. However, shift schedule should be designed in such a way that work on weekends is to the minimum.

Health assessment

Health assessments of employees should be carried out to evaluate the effects of shift work on their health. It can be design is such a way that that there is either individual medical examination or general health assessment of the whole working force involve in shift work. However, any health assessment or medical examination should be done only when employees have been given proper information why it is done and whether they agree to participate. The health assessment of employees will take into account the effects on health, the nature of the work and compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

The organisation can appoint an occupational physician to perform the health assessment or medical examination of it can be to the expense of the agent to choose their own physician and issue a certificate of fitness to undertake shift work. For workers who are not fit to undertake shift work, management should find appropriate alternate duty for the employee. Moreover, appropriate training program can be design to inform and educate agents about what can be done to reduce some effects of shift work.

Welfare Facilities

Apart from the safety and health of workers at work, employer has the duty ensure welfare. Shift work does not allow agents to maintain hobbies or leisure activities and difficulties to meet family commitments. Different groups can be organised at work taking into account different interest such as support teams or organise fun day where different sports teams can be formed. Management can also sponsor employee sports leagues such as football league or volleyball league which will be accessible for both male and female.

Since work cause difficulties to meet family commitments, management can organise event bringing employee family members together to have fun for one day. Workshops can be organised on communication and conflict resolution to help employees to deal with work-family conflict but also on time management on how they can plan family activities around their time off.

Dealing with stress

Stress was also found to be a major problem among call centre agents. Figure x shows that the majority has either moderate or severe stress level. Hence it is important that management take the appropriate measures to deal with stress at the workplace. Once the existence of stress has been recognized and the stressors identified, action to deal with stress should be undertaken. If the main cause is a misfit between the demands of the environment and the individual's ability, corrective measures may be taken, either by adjusting external demands to fits the individual or by reinforcing the individual's ability to cope, or both.

The ideal solution to combat stress is to prevent its occurrence. This may be achieved by tackling the core or the problem-the cause. However, very often there are many causes and the elimination of all stressors is not possible. That is why priority should be given to the elimination of the maximum number of causes. As this cannot always be achieved in the short term, it is generally agreed that the improvement of the worker's ability to cope with stress is a valuable strategy in the process of combating stress.

Action on the worker

Introducing a stress policy

A stress policy will help employers demonstrate that the enterprise recognizes that stress is a serious issue and that it is committed to combating the problem. It will help both managers and employees to assess their responsibilities and the sources of help and information available. The stress policy should include the description of the symptoms of stress and stress-related illness, the responsibilities of both the organisation and employees for managing stress, relevant information regarding stress - related issues such as Employee Assistance Programme on Stress and finally a guidance for carrying out a risk assessment. It is important to note that risk assessment is an important tool for the management of health and safety at the workplace.

Management review

All the recommendation made above pertaining to the different problems identified within this study should be reviewed on a regular basis either once or twice a year. Risk assessment of the working environment done by the employer should be recorded and will be an essential document for the review process.

Conclusion

The evidence from this research gives a clear indication that working in call centre whether it is overseas or in Mauritius, almost the same factors have been identified. The most common factors that have been analysed in this study were the nature of work, the physical environment, shift work and stress and their respective effects on well-being and performance which somehow confirms what other studies have found when analysing the call centre industry. If proper measures are taken by management with the collaboration of the agents to address and improve both well-being and performance will also help to overcome the status of ‘electronic sweatshops' that the call centre has been given for quite a long time. However, even if many researches have shown the bad side of call centres, this sector continues to attract a large work force. Therefore, to bring the level of well-being in call centre similar to other working environments, it would be preferable that in the near future this sector provides challenging work with frequent opportunities for training, learning and development.

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