The telecommunication industry is crucial in development and communication. Telecommunication now is more than voice transmission via telephone or text via telegraph. It now includes social media activities such as video conferencing and web browsing.
Sustainable Development has three aspects: social, economic, and health. According to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development:
Health is a precondition for and an outcome and indicator of all three dimensions of Sustainable Development.
But, the health and safety of the employees in the telecom industry are at stake most of the time. This is due to factors like:
- poor weather conditions
- proximity to electromagnetic waves
- job stress
- irregular and prolonged work schedules, etc.
Let us look at the health hazards endured in the telecom industry. We will also look at how employers can prevent them to an extent.
Hazards in the Telecommunication Industry
1. Working in extreme heights:
Linemen in the telecom industry have to work for long hours at extreme heights. They fit the wires, check the cables, ensure that the wires are in safe working conditions, and so on.
There are high risks of short circuits due to strong currents flowing through the wires. In some cases, this leads to even permanent physical damage to the body.
2. Working with electricity:
Telecom engineers and linemen are well accustomed to the intricacies related to electricity. But accidents are unfortunate and inevitable. The telecom staff often falls victim to electrocution or other electrical mishaps. This happens when the wires are without a proper electric conductor or not grounded.
3. Working for long hours:
The nature of work for the staff in the telecom industry is challenging on various levels. Working beyond regular hours to complete all the tasks in the given time leads to mental stress. As a consequence, it deteriorates their physical and psychological health. Check this issue to ensure that no employee suffers from poor mental and physical health. Employers should give them time for relaxation amid a hefty workload.
4. Electromagnetic waves:
Proximity to electromagnetic waves can lead to fatal health issues in the long run. Prolonged exposure is a leading cause of cancer and leukemia. Conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and chronic fatigue are long-term fatal effects of exposure to heat waves.
5. Working in poor weather conditions:
It is an obvious fact that telecom staff has to endure all kinds of weather conditions. They work under extreme weather conditions without proper PPE or other required equipment. Often such poor weather conditions also play a role in deteriorating the health of the staff.
6. Failure to use harnesses and lanyards:
Engineers have to secure harnesses while climbing telephone poles to check the cables. Often, they are not trained to use the lanyards and harnesses. Thus, even if employees have safety equipment, they are of no use if they are not prepared to use them.
Safety Measures to Reduce These Occupational Hazards
Employees should use appropriate fall-protection equipment and self-retracing lifelines to prevent falling. They must also use work-positioning and travel-restricting equipment. This should be mandatory when they are working 4 feet above the ground on poles.
Do not let employees climb tall poles unless too necessary. If it is inevitable, provide them with all the safety equipment. Ensure they secure the bars by guying or bracing to prevent accidents.
Entrust a competent person to check the strength of the pole or the supporting structure. Ask them to review and determine how secure the pole is.
Check power lines for fluctuating voltage. Get them fixed immediately in case of malfunction. Doing so will prevent unfortunate instances of short circuits and electrocution. Always keep proper PPE kits and first aid boxes ready in case of emergency.
Provide mandatory training about voltage fluctuations and other technical issues to employees. This will help them know about the precautions and the safety measures they should take in electrical malfunction.
Make an Emergency Action Plan to protect employees from bad weather conditions. Cross-check weather reports before sending employees to job sites. When there are high risks of storms, exempt them from climbing tall poles.
Keeping in mind the human limitations, grant employees the time to rest and relax. This will keep them from experiencing chronic fatigue and ill mental health. Grant extended leave, keeping in mind the limitations of their physical health.
Employers in the telecom industry need to adopt new and innovative ways to maintain their employees' wellbeing. One way to achieve this is to have an AI-powered wellness program in place.
Download our complete and comprehensive guide to corporate wellness programs to create an effective one for your workforce.
The telecommunication industry has an extensive contribution towards development. Even then, the health and safety of the employees are always at stake.
WHO states that in the absence of good health, there is no sustainable development. Healthy people are better able to learn, work and contribute to their economies and societies.
Studies show that a safe and secure workplace increases employee retention and productivity. Employees who feel valued at the workplace are more likely to contribute their best to a company's growth.
Thus, it is high time that the telecom industry takes the health factor of their employees into serious consideration. They should do so not only on economic and social grounds but also on humanitarian grounds.