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Obese workers have higher injury rates, medical costs, lost workdays

By jeremyc | July 25, 2014

The US CDC has found that one in three adults in the country are obese, and this may be affecting workplace performance. The CDC has reported that obese workers have higher rates of injury, medical costs and lost workdays when compared to workers of normal weight.

The study that found these results also found that workers of excessive weight were not as able to carry out work when compared to people of normal weight. Age was not a factor in performance either.

Maury Nussbaum, PhD, professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and Lara Cavuoto, PhD, a professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York were co-authors of this study.

For this study, the endurance levels of 32 people were evaluated after being segmented into non-obese young, obese young, non-obese older and obese older groups. The participants were asked to perform three tasks that test a simulated assembly operation, shoulder elevation and hand grip. The workplace was that of a manufacturing setting.

On analysis, the researchers found that the endurance times of the non-obese was 60% higher than that of the obese. Also, despite older workers having longer endurance times, age and obesity did not significantly affect the results.

Nussbaum said, “Previous studies have indicated that both age and obesity lead to decreased mobility, particularly when it comes to walking and performing lower extremity tasks. However, we found no evidence of an interactive effect of obesity and age on endurance times, which is contrary to previous findings.”

Cavuoto noted that the results of this study may lead to updated workplace design guidelines that address the limitations of obese workers.

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