Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-1999-0199-3053, Cincinnati Police Department, Cincinnati, Ohio.
On April 30, 1999, the Superintendent, City of Cincinnati Police Communication Section, contacted the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to request a health hazard evaluation (HHE) at the Cincinnati Police Department's (CPD) 911 Communication Section (Call Center), located at 310 Ezzard Charles Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition, an HHE request was submitted by the President of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 1543. Both management and union representatives were concerned that work within the 911 Call Center was highly stressful, that workers were experiencing high psychological demands, potentially hostile interactions with the public, difficulty overcoming distressing call-related memories, increased tension and irritability, and chronic musculoskeletal discomfort because of improperly designed work stations. NIOSH investigators conducted a series of interviews with managers and employees at the CPD 911 Call Center. Following these meetings, NIOSH investigators developed a study protocol to evaluate each of the concerns expressed in the HHE request and subsequently returned to the 911 Call Center to carry out the evaluation. Participants completed a 200-item self-administered questionnaire designed to examine a range of workplace stressors and health-related outcomes (depression, anxiety, lost work days, musculoskeletal injury). Participants submitted saliva samples four times daily for 5 days to assess physiologic reactions to stress. In addition, a comprehensive area noise assessment consisting of noise levels and octave band noise measurements was made at the active dispatch consoles and 911 operator telephone consoles. Of the estimated 115 on-duty 911 operators and police dispatchers, 72 participated in this study for a participation rate of 63%. Participants were predominately female (75%), had an average age of 40 years (range 19-57 years), and had worked for the City for an average of 11 years (range 1-26 years). Twenty one workers (29%) reported experiencing symptoms that were consistent with major depression according to the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Predictors of depressive symptoms in this workforce included low supervisory social support, anxiety, low job satisfaction, greater than 6 months since last vacation, increasing age, lower levels of social contact, and increasing years working for the City. Symptoms consistent with anxiety were reported by 18 participants (25%), 40% of whom also had symptoms consistent with major depression. Predictors of anxiety were increasing age, low job satisfaction, more than 6 months since last vacation, and increasing years worked for the City. The annual work absentee rate for participants in this evaluation was approximately three times the rate reported by workers nationwide (Cincinnati 911 workers 19.6 days vs. 6.2 days nationally). Musculoskeletal symptoms were most commonly reported for the low back (53%), shoulder (40-43% right/left shoulder respectively), wrists (43%), and upper back (40%). According to ANSI S12.2 Criteria for Evaluating Room Noise, ambient noise levels measured in the work area were found to be appropriate for moderately fair listening or just acceptable speech and telephone communication conditions. NIOSH investigators conclude that stressors at the Cincinnati Police Communication Section 911 Emergency Response Center contributed to the increased reporting (above that found in the general public) of depressive symptoms and symptoms consistent with anxiety. The high prevalence of depressive symptoms and symptoms associated with anxiety were related to factors found on the job (supervisory social support, years employed by the city, and low job satisfaction). Ambient noise levels within the call center were within acceptable criteria for office environments. Recommendations have been made in this report to help improve conditions at this worksite.
Region-5; Hazard-Confirmed; Noise; Ergonomics; Work-performance; Work-practices; Psychological-effects; Psychological-reactions; Police-officers; Emergency-responders; Stress; Psychological-stress; Mental-stress; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Work-organization;
Author Keywords: Police Department; work stress; work organization; psychosocial; noise; ergonomics; depression