Australia: EHS Implications of Obesity for Workplace Designers

Feb. 4, 2009
The Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) has released a research report on the occupational health and safety implications of having accurate data when designing Australian workplaces. The accuracy of anthropometric data is an emerging issue that is a focus of research for the ASCC.

ASCC Chairman Bill Scales, AO, commenting on the release of “Sizing Up Australia: How Contemporary Is the Anthropometric Data Australian Designers Use?,” said, “This report follows up on the previously released scoping paper on the implications of 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. 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.

ABS found that in 2008, more than 7 million Australians ages 18 years and over are overweight or obese, representing an increase of 2.8 million over the previous 15 years.

“A number of emerging issues including the extent of 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, aging and different migration patterns,” he added.

Australian designers polled in the study said they were concerned that they were using out of date or inaccurate data and indicated they want access to data which accurately reflects the current body shape of the Australian workforce.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,” Scales said.

This report is available from the ASCC Web site at

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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