With the American Medical Association (AMA) recently classifying obesity as a disease, many employers are beginning to recognize the condition as a disability. While overweight workers are more likely to become injured on the job than their healthier counterparts, it is important for employers to encourage, rather than force, employees to become fit. Keeping staff members safe on the job is essential no matter their weight.
Help obese workers stay safe
According to Forbes, AMA’s announcement has spurred debate among human resource professionals and employers nationwide. With the increased focus on obesity, Forbes forecasted more research dollars may be allotted to public-health programs in the future. However, as health policy experts and human resource professionals debate over obesity’s medical designation, employers may want to consider providing a safe workplace for workers, including obese employees.
Being overweight can affect a person’s physical health as well as his or her safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or over increases an individual’s chance of developing hypertension, respiratory problems and coronary heart disease.
While many people are aware of the consequences of being overweight, employers may want to recognize the work environment may be influencing unhealthy habits. According to the CDC, an individual’s decisions result from their surroundings. For example, if the workplace does not value physical exercise, an employee may not feel motivated to eat healthily or adopt a fitness regime.
While instilling a culture of wellness is important, employers may not want to make it mandatory for workers to invest in their own well-being. The Chicago Tribune reported obesity is often seen as a disability in the workplace. Employers may want to consider implementing a wellness initiative that rewards employees for participating and that encourages workers to adopt a healthy lifestyle. When staff is able to work in a supportive environment, the employees may begin to eat nutritious food and start exercising.
As employees focus on getting healthy, employers may want to consider investing in personal protective equipment (PPE) that can fit all workers. Sometimes, PPE is too small for obese staff members and employers may want to ensure every employee has the equipment he or she needs to stay safe on site. Employers also may want to respect employee’s break-time requests, as obese workers may get injured if they do not receive adequate rest.