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Risk of Traumatic Workplace Injury Increased by Obesity

A new study has found that having a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese range increases the risk of traumatic workplace injury , thus employer-sponsored weight loss and maintenance programs should be considered as part of a well-rounded workplace safety plan.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on an adult's height and weight. It is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight, 18.5-24.9 is normal; 25-29.9 is overweight and over 30 is obese.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Keshia M. Pollack at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Injury Research and Policy.

As part of the study, researchers used medical and injury surveillance data on hourly workers employed in eight plants of one aluminum manufacturer to determine whether increased BMI was a risk factor for workplace injury. The plants were scattered across the United States.

Employees were grouped into five categories: underweight, normal, overweight, obesity levels I and II and obesity level III and BMI was calculated using National Institutes of Health criteria.

Researchers found that out of the 7,690 workers included in the study, 29 percent were injured at least once between January 2, 2002, and December 31, 2004.

Approximately 85 percent of the injured workers were classified as overweight or obese. More than 28 percent of injuries occurred among employees classified as overweight, 30 percent in the obese I and II category and almost 34 percent in the obese III category.

"Clearly, limited resources for workplace injury prevention and control should target the most prominent and modifiable risk factors, but we cannot neglect the fact that our study and other recently published studies support an association between BMI an d the risk, distribution and prevalence of workplace injury," Pollack said.

The findings of the study were published May issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.


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