Addressing The Occurrence Of The Repetitive Stress Injury In Philippine's BPO Agents
Identifying the Problem
The occupational overuse injury, also known as repetitive stress injury is described as an umbrella term covering a range of disorders characterized by pain and/or other sensations in muscles, tendons, nerves, soft tissues and joints with evidence of clinical signs. (Jaye, 2012). These disorders are caused, or significantly contributed to, by occupational factors including prolonged muscle tension, repetitive actions, forceful movements and sustained or constrained postures, which exceed the usual ability of the body to rapidly recover (Jaye, 2012). RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) is one of the most common injuries in the workplace especially in the BPO industry in the Philippines. According to a survey 1 out 4 call center agents have RSI (Abanilla, 2011). Call center agents use computers for inbound customer service, outbound telemarketing, and professional virtual assistants who constantly use the computer without proper posture and correct hand position may be in danger of RSI.
In terms of functional capacity, those who tested positive had experienced an alteration in their hand function that could hinder their ability to perform daily activities and could affect their career and living, not to mention a loss of money of the company due to lack of manpower. In light of this, the problem is to be addressed by the Department of labor and employment and the Philippine Department of Health. Allowing them to work together to improve workers health by increasing breaks throughout the working day and give access to RSI treatment. KEY ISSUESOne of the best opportunities for growth that are occurring in the country is tourism and Business Process Outsourcing. The outsourcing makes many multinational companies develop their business processes in the Philippines, which involves mainly manufactures and a lot of repetitive work for Filipinos (no author, 2017). Repetitive activities to be carried out manually by manufacturing and outsourcing services that use computer services, where the keyboard, mouse, and postures can compromise the hands, wrists, and spine. Using non ergonomic keyboard would lead to unnecessary strain on the ligaments and nerves in the hand as evidence by verbalizing pain on the affected area. (Marxhausen,2013).
Therefore insufficient rest and breaks and using excessive force would definitely give an individual nerve pain in their hand, wrist, and arms. In the Philippines, according to Magna Carta of call center agents, they are entitled to have after-hours call work (ACW). This break allows them to have 3-5 minutes to have some rest after their last call, but some BPO companies and employees at the same time failed to follow this because of the demand of their calls by their clients (Torres, 2014). In addition, there are limited policy or guidelines in the Philippines for prevention of RSI that could be followed by BPO companies. It is to be hoped to improve the Magna Carta of call center agents with regards to the working condition of the call center agents, especially of the increasing number of cases of RSI reported.
The key stakeholders of the policy are the 1. 3 million employed in the BPO industry and it is expected to grow up and the coming years (Magellan, 2018). BPO company owners and employers also need to participate. Furthermore, since it involves workplace and health The Department of labor and employment and the Philippine Department of Health are included and at the same time the Policymakers that includes the Congress.
The current policy of the Department of labor and employment is the Order 184, Series of 2017 employers are directed to implement measures to address the risks to the health and safety of workers who spend long hours sitting at work, such as those engaged in computer, clerical and administrative work, and those involved in highly mechanized establishments. The prescribed measures include the implementation of regular five-minute breaks every two hours from sitting time. In addition, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is the national health insurance in the country where most of Filipino’s has. Unfortunately, RSI treatment is not covered for free, patients have to pay out of their pocket and they find the cost expensive.
According to the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission of Australia (1996), the policy for the prevention of RSI includes:
- Maintaining a good posture that reduces strain on the back and fatigue such as:
- feet must be firmly and comfortably supported, either on the floor or on a footrest;
- there must be ample room to move the legs and provides footrest.
- thighs must be adequately supported, and the underside of the thighs should not be compressed by the seat edges;
- Hips and knees should not be constrained in limited positions. Angles less than 90 degrees are generally not recommended
- Keyboard and Other Input Devices
- Ergonomic keyboard and mouse design to minimize muscle strain and a host of related problems.
- Training and Education aim to:
- Increase staff and management understanding of health and safety in the office environment
- Decrease the incidence of occupational injury and disease through hazard awareness and prevention.
Adaptation of this policy in the Philippine Government is to be recommended and call center agents will be prevented from acquiring RSI. In case, an employee acquired RSI, it is to be hoped that they have free access to physical therapy or physiotherapy. This includes:
- RSI treatment shall be one of the coverages of PhilHealth
- Physiotherapy clinic on site on the facility of BPO Company. Department of labor and employment will update the Magna Carta of call center agents to take a movement break every 30 minutes. Sitting for a long period of time is a risk factor for early death according to a new study published, that the more time of sitting, so does risk for acquiring diseases (Scutti, 2017).
To sum it up, RSI is a preventable injury of the workplace in a BPO company. It is to be hoped that DOLE and DOH take time reading the policy brief for the beneficial of BPO employees. However, RSI could still develop because of unforeseen occurrence, DOH and insurance company will make the treatment free for all employee.