Why should the growing obesity crisis worry us as safety professionals? Does it really have any impact on our employees’ safety behaviours and performance?
The answer is a resounding Yes.
Research is increasingly revealing the impaired cognitive functioning of obese individuals – memory, learning, executive functioning (such as decision making) and response accuracy and speed are all diminished by obesity.
Research by Gunstad, reported in October’s Surgery for Obesity and Related used a form of magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to probe the wiring that connects nerve cells to move information throughout the brain. The bundled fibres are sheathed in a protective layer of white insulation, giving rise to the tissue’s name: white matter.
In obese individuals — but not normal-weight or overweight people — this sheathing shows signs of damage. “It’s not as though a cable has been cut,” Gunstad says. “It’s just that its integrity is diminished,” jeopardizing the strength or clarity of signals that must traverse these cognitive highways. They also report worse performance in executive function, including tests of psychomotor speed and attention.
According to an NHS survey published in 2012, just over a quarter of all adults (26%) in England are obese. And this inevitably means that a significant number of individuals working in safety critical industries such as the rail industry are obese – with clear implications for safety performance. This must make employee obesity – preferably as part of a holistic employee wellbeing programme – a key priority for our safety critical industries.
Our Driver Support Programme places a heavy emphasis on the role of lifestyle factors have in influencing Non-Technical Skill performance – and diet and weight management form a key part of this. Take a look at the full programme details here.
or contact us to find out how our Human Factors and Non Technical Skills programmes
can benefit your business.
Tel: 0845 2600 126