Obesity in the workplace. Discerning whether an employee is well enough to work

In the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in January 2018, researchers identify the link between obesity and workplace injuries and absenteeism.  Obesity is associated with sleep disorders, sleep apnea, diabetic symptoms, musculoskeletal issues, high blood pressure and depression.  In a Duke University study , showed workers with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 filed twice the number of workers’ compensation claims as non-obese workers.  A University of Texas-Austin study  showed that for workers with major injuries, a higher body mass index was associated with more expensive workers’ compensation claims.  That’s a lot of evidence.  So, here’s some quick notes.  Encouraging a healthy workplace can be as simple as offering discount coupons to the gym or offering healthier vending machine options.  Ideally, a cafeteria offering healthy foods would offer tremendous benefits, but I don’t think companies have offer those types of fringe benefits in the U.S. at the present time.  Instead, maybe your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can offer some options to promote a culture of good health in the workplace.  Regarding workplace injuries, there’s a fine line between discrimination and reassigning or removing an employee, because they’re physically not up to the task.  It’s highly important to recognize when an employee is at risk of injury or illness on the job.

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