OBJECTIVES: The accident rate might be influenced by intrinsic characteristics of the workers, by risks inherent in the work environment, or a combination of these factors. As increased weight may be associated with sleep disturbances and fatigue, a high body mass index (BMI) might be an independent risk factor for accidents in industrial workers. METHODS: 3801 men were examined and followed up for two years for the occurrence of accidents. The objective environmental conditions were recorded and translated into a single score of ergonomic stress levels. Height and weight were recorded, as were possible confounding factors including measures of fatigue, type A personality, total night time sleep, job satisfaction, somatic complaints, smoking, and education levels. RESULTS: Both BMI and ergonomic stress levels independently predicted involvement in accidents (two or more) with those in the highest BMI quartile who worked in an environment with high ergonomic stress levels having a 4-6 times increased risk of accidents compared with those in the lowest BMI quartile who worked in an environment with low ergonomic stress levels (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 2.4-9.0, P < 0.001). Although increasing somatic complaints and a low educational level also were predictors of accidents, they did not mediate the effect of the BMI on the accident rate. Increasing age, less smoking, and decreased sleep hours were significantly associated with an increased BMI, but the association of BMI and involvement in accidents also could not be explained by those factors or the other confounders. CONCLUSIONS: BMI independently influences the accident rate. Further studies warranted to confirm these findings and to explore mechanisms supporting biological plausibility.
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