The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently awarded a two-year research grant worth $72,750 to Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health to reevaluate and amend the current force-endurance model of the United States workforce for the special consideration of the growing number of overweight and obese employees. Mehta will be working with fellow investigators from TAMU and the State University of New York at Buffalo.
In the United States, it is estimated that more than a third of adults (34.9%) are obese, with roughly 40% considered overweight. Employers nationwide, from factories to corporate offices have been accommodating heavier staff members without considering making special workplace and task adjustments to make work safer and more efficient for them. Employers spend roughly $200 billion yearly on obesity-related illnesses, which have been contributing to worker disabilities at increasing levels along with injuries caused by overexertion and fatigue.
Today’s models for endurance prediction serve as bases for ergonomists to modify workplaces for the safety of workers by noting the maximum amount of work one employee can do in varying levels of physical exertion. A considerable number of factors are considered to ensure safety, but none of the models today have factored in obesity or being overweight.
The investigators will be gathering data from employees with varying body types – average, overweight, and obese – in Texas and New York. The research will evaluate participants’ endurance times across different levels of physical exertion for 3 tasks that will require the use of the most commonly injured muscles of one’s upper body and trunk. The aim is to make the study large-scale and diverse in order to apply conclusions to the general population or majority of the country’s workforce, and thereby assist ergonomists in affecting more accommodating workplace improvements.