A major investigation into call centre working conditions was launched last week by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) amidst growing concern over the physical and psychological health risks they pose to their employees.

The announcement coincides with growing unease amongst workers about the quality of their environment and the pressures they are placed under. There are more than 900 call centres in Britain, many of them operated by insurance companies.

Most recently, BT staff took industrial action over what they described as impossible working conditions.

Around two per cent of the entire UK workforce will work in call centres by 2003, according to projections. More people now work over the phone than work in the combined coal mining, steel and car manufacturing industries.

An interview questionnaire that the HSE will use in selected call centres will cover working environment, training, shifts, stress, noise levels, voice loss and musculo-skeletal disorders as well as display screen equipment assessments.