Want fewer injuries at work? Perhaps your company should encourage employees to join weight loss and exercise programs.
That’s because an Australian study shows obesity usually increases the risk of injury and tends to complicate recovery.
Overall, the researchers found:
- Obesity negatively affects balance and posture, increasing the risk of falls
- Obese people are more likely to suffer from breathing-related sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, and that leads to an increase in vehicle crashes
- There is a correlation between the level of obesity and musculoskeletal injuries, including those of the lower extremities, lower back, wrists and shoulders, and
- Obesity is associated with overuse syndromes (ex.: carpal tunnel syndrome), work-related injury and osteoarthritis.
More specifically, when it comes to obesity and occupational injury:
- Odds of sustaining an injury can be as much as twice as high for obese workers compared to their normal-weight counterparts
- For obese workers, repetitive motions, such as kneeling, squatting and typing, compound cumulative injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or osteoarthritis
- Obesity is a risk factor for heat illnesses caused by exertion because a larger body mass results in higher heat production during activity, and a lower ratio of surface area to body mass reduces the ability to lose body heat
- Protective clothing and equipment may be less likely to be worn by obese workers or be less suitable for them because of poor fit or reduced availability, and
- The rate of workers’ comp claims for people with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35 was twice that of normal-weight employees.
The study also noted that while obesity can cause work-related problems, the opposite is also true: Shift work and long hours can lead to obesity.
So it may be time to team up with the person in charge of HR or Benefits regarding your company’s wellness program. The return-on-investment isn’t just on your company’s regular healthcare plan — it can be on your workers’ comp premiums and other costs when employees are injured.
What can companies do about the fact that obese workers are more likely to get injured? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Need some Body Mass Index (BMI) references? Help is available online through charts, calculators and even smartphone apps for the iPhone and android.