Thousands of call centre workers are at risk of damaging their health because they talk too much.
British trade union UNISON claims one in 50 call centre workers is at risk from this "industrial disease" adding that "voice loss" is costing the UK £200m a year, a figure set to double over the next ten years.
UNISON wants employers to do more to minimise the threat to people's health. In particular, it wants to ensure that UK's 860,000 call centre workers receive regular voice breaks and have access to fresh drinking water.
And if workers have colds or sore throats, they should also be excused from phone work so as not to damage their voices.
"For years employers ignored the dangers of asbestos and denied that RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) existed, with the result that workers and companies paid a high price," said UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis.
"Now call centres are in danger of falling into the same trap by ignoring the growing risk of voice loss in the workforce.
He went on: "Call centres are a voice-driven industry and employers need to protect that most precious asset now, or face the human and legal consequences later. Call centre managers have been warned - they cannot feign ignorance of the problem - and they cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand.
Prentis said: "UNISON is demanding urgent action before the problem spirals out of control." ®