Unspoken ailment afflicts millions

Work is making us hoarse, the TUC claims.

A new TUC report warns that the combination of bugs and germs, dry, centrally-heated offices and jobs that place a strain on employees’ vocal chords could prove disastrous for the millions of UK workers who rely on their voices to do their jobs.

‘Work hoarse’, which appears in the latest issue of the TUC-backed health and safety magazine Hazards, says that teachers and call centre workers are the groups of workers most likely to be suffering a silent blight at this time of year. Figures from the US suggest that as many as five million workers in the UK could be routinely affected by voice loss, at annual cost to the economy of more than £200m.

‘Work hoarse’ contains a number of recommendations for how employers and union safety reps can help reduce the risk of occupational voice loss:

  • Provide a working environment that has a comfortable temperature and humidity, and control dust and chemicals, as both can inflame the membranes of the vocal tract

  • Carry out a risk assessment that looks at the jobs most at risk of voice loss and stress, look at ways of changing the way people work to minimise any risk

  • Ensure staff take regular rest breaks and drink plenty of fresh water, and don’t put pressure on staff to come into work when they are not well enough to do so

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