How Does Obesity Weigh In Workers’ Compensation?

Every employee enters a worksite with varying degrees of health problems. For some, health issues, including obesity can increase the chances of workplace injury.

According to a report published by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, individuals with a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese range has an increased risk of traumatic workplace injury. How does this impact the right to workers’ compensation or third-party injury claims?

The short answer–it doesn’t.


Workers’ compensation is entitlement for all employees who are injured while in the course of performing work-related duties. Even if you are injured as a result of your own negligence or health issues, you are still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Our Asheville workers’ compensation attorneys are committed to raising awareness to protect employee rights and improve workplace safety. Our priority is to help keep workers safe and to reduce the number of accidents, while also helping victims and their loved ones collect full compensation in the event of injury or wrongful death.

BMI measures body fat based on an adults height and weight and is used to scan for potential health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 while an overweight or obese BMI is above 30. The study shows a clear link between obesity and high rates of workplace injury. The data was based on medical reports and injury surveillance of workers in eight plants of an aluminum manufacturing company. For a broader study scope, the plants were scattered throughout the United States and BMI was calculated based on the National Institutes of Health.

The results showed that 85% of those injured were classified as overweight or obese. Alarmingly, 28% of the injuries occurred among employees classified as overweight while 34% of all injuries involved employees in the severely obese category. This group had a BMI over 40 and accounted for the majority of injuries. The injuries ranged from hand/wrist injuries, to leg or knee injuries and back or neck injuries.

One reason injuries may be more likely is that obese workers face additional complications. They may have more limited movements, slower reaction times, or other health issues that make them more susceptible to injuries. Since employers are accountable for injuries that may be weight-related, many employers have sponsored weight loss and maintenance programs to reduce the chances of work-related injury. Employers may have an economic incentive to reduce obesity in the workplace, but they are still accountable for ensuring safety and in paying benefits to injured workers.

Unfortunately, additional studies have not been done on the reduction of injuries in relation to these obesity prevention policies. While reducing weight may lower the number of injuries and lost time for employers, obesity has no impact on whether an employee has the right to benefits. However, individual employees may see a benefit to losing weight to prevent injuries and to improve overall health.

If you have suffered a work accident in North Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries:
Noisy Worksites Make for More Accidents, April 20, 2014, Asheville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

Employers Seek to Reduce Workers’ Compensation Costs, March 29, 2014, Asheville Worker Compensation Lawyer Blog

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