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Risk Management Bulletin

Obesity Risks Weigh Heavily on Today’s Businesses

By January 6, 2015No Comments

Obesity costs business more than $150 billion annually in productivity losses, according to a recent Gallup poll,and nearly 50 percent more in healthcare costs. The poll also revealed about 66 percent of those who work full time are either overweight or obese, and most of them have at least one additional chronic health problem. Even for relatively small companies, the impact on the bottom line can be substantial.

The obesity problem has grown significantly during the past decade, with the CDC estimating more than a third of adults in the U.S. are obese. Because obese men and women tend to have additional chronic health conditions, it’s no surprise workers’ compensation claims associated with overweight workers is substantially more than for those of “normal” weights. In fact, studies indicate workers with BMIs above 40 file two times as many claims as non-obese workers, and the probability of an obese person being injure don the job is significantly higher than for workers with normal BMIs. One study from Johns Hopkins found medical costs associated with obese workers were nearly seven times the amount of claims filed by people with BMIs in the normal range. Indemnity costs were a whopping 11 times more.

So what can a business do to reduce its potential costs associated with obese employees? Here are some tips:

·         Consider developing a workplace wellness plan that includes reimbursement for health club membership or incentives for losing weight.

·         Consider the health risks most commonly faced by obese employees – lower extremity injuries and lower back problems are very common – and include risk management objectives based on limiting or addressing those health risks.

·         Encourage health screening to identify comorbidities, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, perhaps by providing free screenings at your workplace.

·         Identify special furniture or equipment designed for obese workers that can help avoid injuries and reduce claims.

·         Be proactive in helping injured obese workers return to work (hereby limiting the duration and cost of their claims) by learning about their needs and accommodating them as much as possible.

Obesity is a health problem that’s on the rise. Being proactive is the best way your business can minimize the costs it can cause and its ultimate impact on your company’s bottom line.