The relationship between age, gender, physical work capacity profile and a worksite wellness program for workers in an electricity supply company
Lubbe, Jacob Pieter Hendrik
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1. The problem and objective of study Workers in physically demanding jobs have, over the last decade, shown a high incidence of work-related injuries as well as other related physical disorders (Dempsey & Hashemi, 1999:183; Mital & Ramakrishnan, 1999:74; WHO, 1999:1; Weir & Nielson, 2001:128; Cox et al, 2003:6). This has been shown to lead to absenteeism, lost work time and poor work quality which in turn give rise to increased costs of yearly worker compensation claims, medical treatment and general loss of production (Ciriello & Snook, 1999:149; Mital, 1999:246-247; Cox et al., 2003:6). For example, the World Health Organization indicates that work related injuries and illness kill an estimated 1.1 million people worldwide every year. This is roughly equal to the number of worldwide deaths due to malaria each year (WHO, 1999:1). Research indicates that these types of injuries and/or work disability usually occur when the physical demands of the work tasks exceed the physical work capacity of the worker (Chaffin, 1974:251-254; Fraser, 1992:24; Shrey, 1997a:8). Two types of workers are usually pointed out by management in this regard, namely the older workers and females that are exposed to tasks with a high physical demand (Ayoub & Mital, 1989:9; Smith & Mustard, 2004:755; Sluiter, 2006:438). The above-mentioned problem seems to be a global concern (Mital, 1999:246; WHO, 1999:1) and forces companies to better manage the physical incapacity of workers in physical demanding jobs. The management of the electricity supply company in South Africa (hereafter the company) who realised that this problem was also prevalent in their workforce, developed minimum physical ability task requirements, that represent the physical work demands, for all the physically demanding jobs (Lubbe, 2003b:4). These minimum requirements enable the company to determine which workers do not have the physical work capacity to perform their physical work demands and to implement the necessary management process, such as a worksite wellness program, to address the problem. Hence the objective of the study were to determine the: a) role of gender on the physical work capacity profile of workers in the company based on the minimum physical ability task requirements of their job; b) role of age on the physical work capacity profile of workers in the company based on the minimum physical ability task requirements of their job; c) effect of a worksite wellness program on the physical work capacity profile of workers in the company based on the minimum physical ability task requirements of their job. 2. Summary of results a) The physical work capacity of male workers in this population are practically significant greater than that of female workers with the same job-related minimum physical ability task requirements. b) Practically significant more female workers do not have the minimum physical work capacity required by their job, than male workers. c) The physical work capacity of workers in physically demanding jobs within this company declines with aging. d) The age-related decline in physical work capacity for male workers is to such an extent that from the age of 60, the physical work demands of their job exceed their physical work capacity. e) The age-related decline in physical work capacity for female workers is to such an extent that, in general, the indication is that they will never have the required physical work capacity based on the minimum physical ability task requirements of their job, for it is predicted that from the age of 18, the physical work demands of their job exceed their physical work capacity. f) A worksite wellness program assists workers whose physical work capacity profile does not meet the minimum physical ability task requirements of their job, to regain the required physical work capacity. g) A worksite wellness program provide an alternative option to managing the physical work capacity of their workers, other than ill-health retirement, retrenchments or prolonged sick-leave.
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