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Workplace change can reduce obesity comp claims

Workplace change can reduce obesity comp claims

Employers should take a look at their workplaces to see if they accommodate the needs of overweight workers, according to a speaker at the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. conference in Denver.

Furniture and equipment that do not physically support overweight employees could lead to workers compensation claims, said Kevin Glennon, Lake Mary, Fla.-based vice president of home health and complex care for One Call Care Management, who presented a Tuesday session on how obesity affects workers comp.

While health experts consider people with a body mass index of 30 or above to be obese, Mr. Glennon said most standard fixtures and furniture can accommodate up to 250 pounds. Above that weight, employers should consider whether their chairs, desks, toilets and other equipment can support their workers.

“Once you begin to go beyond that 250-pound mark, that is when you have got to be cognizant of heavy-duty or bariatric medical equipment and/or office equipment to safely meet the needs of that individual,” Mr. Glennon said.

Mr. Glennon spoke of a firefighter who was 6-foot-4-inches and weighed 324 pounds, but wasn’t obese because he was a bodybuilder with low body fat. The firefighter broke his right leg while fighting a fire, and later broke his left leg and left arm after the crutches that he was given broke under his weight.

“We went from a medical-only no-lost-time (comp) claim to a lost-time nightmare because no one took into account what this individual’s weight was,” Mr. Glennon said.

Kate Wolin, associate professor of public health sciences and surgery at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, also discussed contributing factors to obesity. Support from a person’s friends, family and employer can make a difference in whether a person loses weight, she said.

“In the workplace, it matters what’s in the vending machine,” she said. “It matters what’s in the cafeteria, if you have one. It matters whether people have to drive to get healthy food options … because there (are) no options around the workplace.”