OHS implications of obesity for workplace designers

Monday, 19 January, 2009

The Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) recently released a research report on the occupational health and safety implications of accurate data for the design of Australian workplaces. The accuracy of anthropometric data is an emerging issue that is a focus of research for the ASCC.

Commenting on the release of the report, Sizing Up Australia: How contemporary is the anthropometric data Australian designers use?, ASCC Chairman Bill Scales AO said: “This report follows up on the previously released scoping paper on the implications of [being] overweight and obesity for workplace health and safety and workers compensation.”

The report investigates what anthropometric data is being used by designers of workplace equipment and products, and assesses whether this data reflects the contemporary Australian workforce.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found in 2008 that more than 7 million Australians aged 18 years and over are overweight or obese, representing an increase of 2.8 million over the previous 15 years.

Anthropometric data are the measurements of the human body form used by designers to represent the human shape and size in designing products, spaces and systems.

“A number of emerging issues including the extent of [being] overweight and obesity amongst the Australian workforce may have implications for the designers of workplace equipment and products,” Scales said. “This initial research suggests that existing Australian anthropometric data may not adequately represent the current Australian workforce. Australia’s anthropometric dimensions have changed due to improved nutrition, increasing rates of obesity, ageing and different migration patterns.

“Australian designers in this study told us they were concerned that they were using out-of-date or inaccurate data and they want access to data which accurately reflects the current body shape of the Australian workforce. More accurate Australian anthropometric data and tools will help our designers make workplaces safer.”

The report is available from the ASCC website.


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