STUDY: Obesity, Fatigue and Matting
A study to be published in the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, but currently available online, reports obese workers often have significantly shorter endurance when performing many workplace tasks, such as in a factory or industrial setting.
Prepared by Lora A. Cavuoto of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University at Buffalo, SUNY, Buffalo, New York, and Maury A. Nussbaum with the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, the study involved 32 workers performing various simulated assembly tasks using the upper extremities.
The workers were male and female and grouped as:
• Non-obese and young
• Obese and young
• Non-obese and older
• Obese and older
Before each test session, participants performed warm-up exercise, followed by a five minute rest.
According to Cavuoto, on average, the obese group had "approximately 40 percent shorter endurance" than the non-obese groups. "[Further,] individuals in the obese group also exhibited declines in task performance, though this difference was only evident among females."
The researchers attributed the increased fatigue and declining task performance to physiological changes associated with obesity and decreased blood flow, limiting the supply of oxygen through the body.
"Because the prevalence of obesity has doubled over the past three decades, this is an issue that business owners must grapple with," says Adam Strizzi, marketing director for Crown Mats and Matting. "While they may not be able to do much about workers' obesity issues, they can take steps to reduce [worker] fatigue."
To accomplish this, Strizzi suggests:
• Work areas should be well illuminated;
• Room temperature should be comfortable and noise levels, if possible, kept to 60 decibels or lower; and
• Anti-fatigue matting, which helps improve blood flow to lower limbs, should be installed at all workstations.
"Also, workers should be encouraged to rest every two hours," he adds. "Short breaks, especially in industrial-type locations, often results in far greater worker productivity."
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