DOLE alarmed by ‘lifestyle-related diseases’ in BPO sector

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The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Friday said the there is a growing concern in the surge of so-called “lifestyle diseases” in the local BPO industry.

“While the rapid growth of the business process outsourcing industry has created significant employment opportunities, we recognize there are health and safety concerns linked to peculiar working conditions in the industry,” DOLE secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said.

The labor chief cited the report of the DOLE?s Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC), which said available scientific information from local and international studies acknowledge that there are recognized health and safety issues, including lifestyle-related diseases, associated with outsourcing or BPO work.

Baldoz said that because of this, the DOLE, in 2008, issued Department Circular No. 1-08 containing the “Policy Guidelines Governing the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) of Workers in the Call Center Industry”.

The circular provides direction to BPO firms in formulating OSH programs and how they can comply with OSH standards and other related OSH issuances that the DOLE enforces to protect workers in the BPO industry from hazards in the workplace.

“For BPO companies, their OSH programs should include prevention and control mechanisms and address security and safety concerns related to night work. These programs should also include measures in building the capability of BPO firms’ safety and health committees to undertake risk management through information, training, and work environment safety and health interventions,” said OSHC executive director Dr. Ma. Teresa Cucueco in her report.

Baldoz said the DOLE is actively involved in advocating OSH programs and OSH compliance through the BPO Industry Tripartite Councils, particularly in regions with numerous BPO establishments ? the NCR, Central Luzon, Central Visayas, Northern Mindano, and Davao region.

“We work closely with the BPO ITCs in promoting better compliance to the OSH standards,” said Baldoz.

She explained that last year, the DOLE started working with the International Labor Organization on a project dubbed, “Promoting Company Values and Healthy Lifestyle in the BPO industry”, which aims to promote healthy lifestyles among the young professionals working in BPOs.

Under the project, the DOLE and the International Labor Organization (ILO) conducted a survey among management and workers in this industry to arrive at a holistic and integrated workplace-based approach to address the issues of stress, poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use, HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and violence.

The project also envision partnerships among government, the private sector, workers organizations and NGOs for the development of company policies and programs to be implemented to ensure the protection of the health and safety of BPO workers and, consequently, to prevent lifestyle-related diseases.

Baldoz said that as a result, BPO companies have introduced better workplace design as part of their good ergonomics program to reduce muscle and joint pains and implemented enhanced safety services, such as transport for night shift workers.

They have also launched awareness-raising programs on eating healthy meals and avoiding too much coffee or cigarettes at work and organized physical fitness activities to address work stress.

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