Laws on Headsets

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JVM Market Research

Does anyone know the current laws on headsets? Are they allowed to be shared between many agents or do agents have to be assigned their own headset? What are the Health and Safety regulations?


Thinking Mortgages

Headsets - great question

You know that is something that I have never thought about, and would like to find an answer to this. If there are no health and safety regulations, then I think that there should be.

I look forward to hearing an answer on this one.


MI Capability Manager

Vertex DataScience Ltd

Headset legislation
Extract from HELA (UK Health and Safety Local Authority Enforcement Liaison Committee)Local Authority Circular 941/rev issued December 2001.

This is an advice document covering many aspects of UK callcentre working practices. The fact it is headed 'advice' makes me believe it is not enforcable, but I would imagine any litigation would review this document as a best practice guide when prosecuting a company.

The actual wording from the site is:
HELA Local Authority Circulars (LACs) and PETroleum Enforcement Liaison circulars (PETELS) provide local authority (LA) health and safety enforcement officers with advice and guidance on enforcement management and technical matters. HELA circulars are issued in the interests of achieving consistent standards in health and safety enforcement between LAs, and between LAs and the Health and Safety Executive.

The sections relating to sharing headsets are shown below:

77. Headset hygiene: Call handlers wear a headset throughout their shift every shift so it is important that it is fully adjustable to ensure a comfortable fit. This is particularly important if the ear pieces sit at the entrance to the ear canal rather than resting on the outside. Prompts about adjusting display screen equipment when call handlers log on at the start of their shift should include a reminder to adjust headsets to make them comfortable. Headsets should be checked regularly and repaired or replaced immediately if necessary. There may be an increased risk of ear irritation and infection because headsets are worn so intensively. To reduce this risk, staff should be trained in headset hygiene and given the time and the materials to complete a hygiene programme. The issue of headsets to individuals is strongly recommended. If the sharing from a pool of headsets is unavoidable, then each call handler should be issued with their own personal foam ear pads and voice tubes. These should always be available so call handlers who have forgotten or lost theirs, or worn them out, do not endure a shift with hard ear pieces and an incomplete headset.

78. Voice tubes can become blocked with food, make-up and dust, and this compromises the effectiveness of microphones. Call handlers must be trained how to clean the voice tubes in order to optimise the volume of the transmitted signals and avoid the risk of frustrated callers and strained voices.



Just a quick extra to what Julian has posted.

I printed the call centre / working practices circular this morning from the HSE site, which gives full legislation details and good practice notes.

Its a big file, but I've found it very interesting so far!

you can find it on

Product Manager

Nomad Headset Tracking System

There's a response to the HELA document from the CWU
The HELA document was reviewed by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and was considered to be fall short of their expectations in several areas. In particular reference to the start of this thread, thay say they want added "It is recommended that Hot Disking should be avoided or minimised wherever possible". I have seen other references to the subject of headset sharing that indicate it doesn't reflect the level of 'duty if care' that may be considered reasonable. However, I haven't seen any legal precedent yet set.

Product Manager

Nomad Headset Tracking System

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A headset can be shared between say 3 x 8 hour shifts....assign each user with a leatherette ear cushion...when the agent goes to the workstation they just place the leatherette ear cushion on the headset and they are good to go.....I haven't heard of any health and safety regs that means every user has to have their own headset.



Info for USA
Regarding Laura Fox's post: "Does anyone know the current laws on headsets? Are they allowed to be shared between many agents or do agents have to be assigned their own headset? What are the Health and Safety regulations?" I live in the US and would like to know if anyone can direct me as to US laws/regulations on this subject? My friend got a serious outer and inner ear infection that was traced directly back to the use of shared and telephone headgear in disrepair headsets at work. I am trying to help her because her upper management team is making light of the situation and will not even reimburse her if she buys her own headset.


Call Centre Helper

The Health and Safety Guidelines say that you need to "provide clean premises, furniture and fittings".

In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, it would be reasonable to argue that you would need to keep the headsets clean.

I would think that this probably means a headset each.

Each user having their own Keyboards?
Maybe this should that also apply to keyboards - one per agent?

Acoustic shock
Does anyone know if headsets can block loud noises such as fax machines - loud noises over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss and tinnitus. I work in a call centre and so concerned by this I'm considering leaving. I heard that we should have headsets which reduce noise over 95 decibels by 20 decibels.


Call Centre Helper

I doubt if the Fax Machine generates noises over 85dB
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.

The level at which employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones is 85 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure) and the level at which employers must assess the risk to workers' health and provide them with information and training is now 80 decibels. There is also an exposure limit value of 87 decibels, taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection, above which workers must not be exposed.

The 85dB is an average daily figure.

I doubt if the actual noise level is as loud as you think. In some noisy open-plan offices, noise ranges from 60 to 65 decibels.

85dB is the level of road noise.

The only way to be sure is to get a sound meter and measure it.

Headset ringing
Are call centres allowed to have constant ring tones in headsets? My partner works for a company who have constant phonee ringing, so that when she hangs up call the phone rings are a constant.


Call Centre Helper

It's probably legal
Is it that they are making outbound calls?

If this is the case then this would be the ringing that you would hear when dialling someone.

Because of the laws on automated calls are tough (particularly silent calls), you cannot easily dial someone automatically without a call centre advisor present. The downside is that the advisor will hear a lot of ringing tone.

I suggest that she takes it up with the company to check that it is not a fault on their system.

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