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Obesity and the Construction Trades

Obesity has just become a disease. But how is obesity defined?

The current definition is twenty percent more weight than the ideal weight for an individual’s height and weight. A six-foot one-inch man weighing 216 pounds is considered obese.

Typically, some big people who are muscled from labor are on sites. This definition will almost certainly paint the construction industry labor force as obese.

As a disease, obesity and its affects must be dealt with the Americans with Disabilities Act in mind. What accommodations will be required?

What will be the effect on workers’ compensation work related disease coverage?

Safety personnel should consider these issues. Perhaps some site humor can be expected, but worker body mass index (BMI) might be a future consideration when hiring.

Employees who appear obese by the old definition probably need to be educated on the risks of weightiness. The physical stresses of the construction industry added to true body fat content is not a joke, it is dangerous. Even some safety equipment is not available to fit certain body types.

Consider adopting a physical fitness culture for onsite workers which includes maintaining a body mass index of below 30. This number may result in technically obese employees, but the BMI does not consider muscle mass or conditioning.

Visual inspection of the crew will indicate relative obesity which can be addressed individually. Begin to move in that direction, and then when the clarifying regulations promulgate new standards, you’ll be in a position to correct any deficiencies.

The secondary issue is whether this disease is work related; therefore treatment is covered by workers, compensation, or is it an individual issue which means Affordable Health Care Act or group coverage.

The lines blur with this issue. Good risk management suggests watching this issue carefully for future regulations, but in the meanwhile, begin informing employees about preventative healthcare.

As always if you have any questions please call Tracy-Driscoll at 860-589-3434.