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Obesity a Struggle for Low Wage Workers

Recently, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health and the University of Massachusetts released a study on lower income workers. The study involved participants in a variety of different industries including the construction industry; the manufacturing industry; the housekeeping/cleaning industry and the health care/human services industry.

The results of the study indicated that many of the low-wage workers, including those in non-sedentary jobs, were suffering from obesity. The study suggested a possible link between their work environment and their weight problems. Unfortunately, our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys know that obesity can not only be a result of workplace factors but that it can also increase the risk of suffering a workplace injury. As such, we urge all employers and employees to consider the results of this new study and to take action to help fight obesity in the workplace. 1122017_fat_woman.jpg

The Link Between Low Wage Work and Obesity
The results of the University of Massachusetts’ study showed a clear correlation between working in certain low wage jobs and experiencing struggles with weight. There were several primary factors that could explain this correlation including:

  • Time Pressure: Many low wage workers responding to the survey described having limited break time and having to eat at work, making it harder to make healthy eating choices. Further, workers indicated that they were not near to places offering healthy meals while they were working and that when they were at home, time pressures limited their ability to cook healthy meals.
  • Psychological stress: According to the study, the psychological stress experienced by many low wage workers due to money fears or bad working conditions caused their cortisol levels to rise. Elevated cortisol levels can increase weight gain.
  • Decreased ability to exercise: Many of the low wage workers responding to the study did not have time to exercise and did not have the energy to exercise after a long day of work. Further, many reported that their job took a physical toll on their body or that job related injuries left them in pain and unable to exercise.

For these and other reasons, the low wage workers responding to the survey indicated that they were involved in an ongoing struggle with their weight because of their jobs, despite the fact that their jobs were not sedentary.

Can Obesity Add to Work Injury Risks?
While this study shows that obesity can be tied to work conditions, it is also important to realize that being overweight could also put someone at greater risk of developing a workplace injury. For example, someone who is overweight might be more prone to muscle strains or sprains when performing work. An obese worker may also be more likely to develop a repetitive stress condition since the added weight will put more pressure on the bones and joints of the body.

In the event that a worker does become injured on the job, whether obesity played a role or not, the employer can be responsible for paying benefits through workers’ compensation.

If you or a loved one has been injured at work in the Greater Boston area, contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC for a free consultation. Call 1-877-617-5333.