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Researchers explore the degree to which obesity affects the workplace

In our previous post, we discussed a recent study that examined the price differential between standard work comp claims and work comp claims involving certain employee comorbidities, meaning a work comp claim plus a condition like obesity, hypertension, drug abuse, etc. Here, the study revealed that the costs of work comp claims involving employee comorbidities were nearly double those of standard work comp claims.

On a somewhat related note, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the University of Connecticut, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and other work safety advocacy groups recently joined forces to examine the correlation between lower income workers and perhaps the most prevalent employee comorbidity here in the United States -- obesity.

Through a series interviews, focus groups and stakeholder meetings, the research teams sought to identify the primary causes of obesity among lower income workers, and devise suggestions for employers on how to reduce obesity and other related comorbidities (hypertension, diabetes, etc.).

Some of the primary causes of obesity among lower income workers were determined to be:

  • Physically demanding work often results in injuries, illnesses or fatigue, such that employees are reluctant to participate in physical activity outside of work and/or more likely to eat more during their down time
  • Workplace stress (schedule demands, production demands, multitasking, etc.) often causes employees to consume more high-calorie foods
  • Time pressure causes many employees to forgo their breaks and eat so-called convenience foods
  • The lack of an adequate eating space and/or healthy food choices causes employees to forgo their breaks

Based on these factors, the researchers compiled some basic recommendations for employers, which they argue can reduce the incidence of obesity and, by extension, reduce their work comp costs:

  • Ensure that employees take their breaks in order to "facilitate healthy meal planning"
  • Provide a clean and adequately sized eating space
  • Introduce health and safety programs designed to eliminate ergonomic hazards and reduce fatigue
  • Involve employees in scheduling decisions so as "to promote family balance and mental health"

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


Risk & Insurance, "Study looks at role of working conditions on comorbidities," Jan. 14, 2013

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