OBJECTIVE: To explore whether obesity is associated with non-fatal traumatic occupational injury. DESIGN: Systematic literature review. METHODS: The peer-reviewed literature was searched from 1 January 1980 to 31 December 2005 for studies on the risk of overweight and obesity on non-fatal traumatic occupational injuries among non-office employees. The search was conducted using Medline, eLCOSH, NIOSHTIC-2, CINAHL, PsycLit, and OSH-ROM. Studies were excluded that focused on military populations, chronic/repetitive workplace injuries, back pain, only height as a risk factor, or were not written in English. RESULTS: The search identified only 12 studies. The risk of injury for obese versus non-obese employees overall was slightly increased, although many of the estimates were not statistically significant. In studies in which increased risk estimates were shown, there was limited exploration of the mechanism of obesity-related injury, but the influence of chronic disease, fatigue or sleepiness, ergonomics, and physical limitations were most often hypothesized. DISCUSSION: With the current growing prevalence of obesity worldwide, more research is needed to better establish its impact on workplace injuries and lost work time. Studies are needed that use large diverse samples, advanced statistical methods, and control for potential confounders, and explore issues related to temporality. Gaining a better understanding of how obesity influences workplace injury may foster the development of interventions that address weight, while still emphasizing the important environmental and sociocultural risk factors for injury.
Dr K M Pollack, Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N Broadway, Room 557, Baltimore, MD 21205