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Researchers call for more focus on ergo guidelines for overweight, obese workers

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College Station, TX – Guidelines for promoting good workplace ergonomics are less effective among workers who are overweight or obese, and increased focus on these groups is needed, according to researchers from Texas A&M University and the University at Buffalo.

Proper ergonomics, which OSHA defines as “fitting a job to a person,” has been shown to help prevent musculoskeletal disorders such as muscle strains, low-back injuries and tendonitis.

As part of the study, the researchers analyzed the differences in muscular strength and endurance among 142 healthy weight, overweight or obese workers to determine the effects of ergonomics safety and health practices on each group. They found overweight and obese individuals tested worse in shoulder flexion and trunk extension endurance exercises – movements that are linked with a disproportionate number of workplace injuries.

The findings could influence further research into developing ergonomics guidelines that help all workers, researchers said.

“Regardless of why higher body mass correlates with lower muscular endurance, the findings of this study point to a need for ergonomics researchers to focus more on overweight and obesity in the workforce, as they account for more than two-thirds of the working population,” researcher Ranjana Mehta, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the Texas A&M School of Public Health, said in a press release. “This initial evidence will help inform strategies to keep workers safe and healthy, benefiting those workers and the workforce as a whole.”

The study was published online March 7 in the journal Human Factors.

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