Is Sitting a Legitimate Occupational Hazard?
Much is being discussed about the potential hazards of too much sitting. And, many in our current workforce spend hours upon hours sitting at a desk or work station performing tasks. Is all this sitting causing injury to our workers? And, if so, should these injuries be covered under work comp? LeBow Business College at Drexel University has a new paper being published in The Lewis and Clark Law Review outlining how sitting in the workplace could be a legal liability for US businesses.
The idea is that more and more research is showing that sitting for prolonged periods of time, day after day, month after month, can lead to health issues for the worker, primarily obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. According to articles published by the Mayo Clinic, too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. With mainstream medicine recognizing these risks and issuing warnings about prolonged sitting, it doesn’t take too much imagination to understand how employers that fail to minimize this risk can be held liable for “injury” to their employees, especially if reasonable accommodation is readily available and affordable.
In Florida, the likely legal theory for sitting injuries to be covered under comp is that such work activity created mini-accidents over an extended period of time that ultimately manifested itself into a known medical condition. This is already a viable legal theory in carpal tunnel type cases where repetitive trauma results in the onset of a compensable condition.
Of course, the worker’s non-work life style will always play a part in such causation issues. So, I can envision with dread the depositions of these potential claimants with question and after (legitimate) question about the person’s diet and non-work (in)activity. Stay tuned for how this plays out in Florida. (Personally, if I had a life threatening condition, I wouldn’t want it to be covered by work comp! You may recall that Florida injured workers have NO right to choose any of their doctors and must often wait weeks upon weeks for authorization of medical treatment from work comp insurance carriers. If you have a severe heart condition or cancer, is this the type of coverage you would want?)