Almost 40% of Americans are obese, according to the CDC. This means that most, if not all, organizations in the US employ at least one worker who is classed as obese. These individuals are more susceptible to health complaints, including diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders like back pain and sore knees, and hypertension. As such, it’s essential that all workplaces are fit for purpose and cater for both their employees who are deemed as being a healthy weight and workers who are obese. And, it’s professional occupational health providers such as you who can ensure that America’s offices are suitable for all.
Giving Workers Space
CBS News reports that the average American worker has just 151 square feet of space. However, this isn’t necessarily enough room for all workers and can result in them feeling claustrophobic, depressed, and anxious. In turn, this will negatively impact workplace performance. Obese workers may require a little extra space to freely access, and maneuver around, their desk. Meanwhile, slim yet tall employees may need additional leg space. It’s, therefore, important that a thorough assessment of every workers’ space is conducted and official guidance in the form of an action plan is given to employers to support those of all shapes and sizes.
Feeling comfortable in the workplace is essential for both physical and mental wellbeing, which is something all occupational health workers should strive to achieve. It’s crucial that occupational health workers check that the physical working requirements of employees are met. This can be done by assessing the furniture available in the office and checking that it’s easily adjustable and suitable for every employee’s size. Some individuals may require an extra wide desk, so an extending desk should be considered, whereas other workers will benefit from being able to adjust the height of their desk. This can benefit workers of different heights and varying weights, as it can easily free up extra space.
Obesity increases the likelihood of developing vision problems, including hypertensive retinopathy, glaucoma, and sight loss. Occupational health practitioners should highlight the additional tools an obese employee needs to continue to function fully in their job. This includes encouraging the purchase of computer magnifiers and screen-reader programs for those who use a computer. But, it’s not just plus-sized members of staff who are at risk of eye-related problems. The use of computers contributes to eye strain and increases the risk of myopia. So, occupational health practitioners should be highlighting these concerns to employers and recommending that optometrists are brought into the workplace to carry out eye examinations on a regular basis.
Occupational health workers have a crucial role to play in helping obese workers feel safe and fit for work. But, more than anything, they can work with organizations to ensure that suitable working environments are created and maintained at all times.