Loughborough University
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Including plus size people in workplace design

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posted on 2017-06-07, 07:59 authored by Annabel E. Masson
Over 60% of the adult population in the United Kingdom is now overweight or obese or classed as plus size . This is higher than almost all other developed countries in the world. Even with numerous public health interventions, the incidence of being plus size continues to rise potentially changing the demographics of the working population. This presents a challenge to those involved in workplace design as the design process relies upon the utilization of appropriate anthropometric data to establish the percentage of the user population that will be accommodated by the design. The aim of this thesis is to identify issues affecting plus size people in the working environment, not previously explored within the literature. Furthermore, by understanding the size and shape of this population via the collection of key anthropometric data, this will help inform the design of safe, comfortable, inclusive and productive working environments for plus size people within the United Kingdom. A first stage Scoping Study (n=135) found that fit (equipment, tools, furniture, uniforms and personal protective equipment) and space (circulation and shared spaces within the working environment) were issues of concern to plus size people. This suggests that aspects of the current design of the workplace are not suitable, and may even exclude plus size people. A better understanding of the anthropometric requirements of plus size workers is therefore required. Self-reported anthropometric data is an acceptable way of studying large and geographically diverse populations and may assist in accessing the hard to reach plus size working population. A validation study (n=20) established that self measurement of 14 key anthropometric measurements, using a self measurement instruction guide, was a feasible and acceptable data collection method for a larger scale anthropometric study to further understand the body size and shape of plus size people at work. A unique measure of knee splay (for a non-pregnant population) was included. Defined as the distance between the outer borders of the knees whilst seated in the preferred sitting position it represents the observed sitting postures of plus size individuals not captured in existing anthropometric data sources. The larger scale Plus Size Anthropometry Study (n=101) collected anthropometric data of plus size working age people via self measurement. The findings indicated that the study population was substantially larger in circumference, depth and breadth measurements than the population of existing anthropometric data sources. Knee splay was also identified as a key anthropometric variable for plus size people, however, it is not included in any datasets or literature relating to plus size people at work. These factors may contribute to high exclusion rates from current design practices that seek to accommodate the 5th to 95th or 99th percentile of users and may explain the high incidence of fit and space issues reported by participants with a BMI over 35kg/m2 . Finally, semi structured interviews with stakeholders (n=10) explored how they would like the data from the plus size anthropometry study communicated and any additional requirements of a resource aimed at supporting stakeholders in meeting the needs of plus size people within the working environment. The primary concern from stakeholders was the lack of existing data on the size and shape of the plus size working population and the importance of access to such data in whatever format. A range of ideas were suggested including case studies, guidance and access to training which may assist them in understanding the needs of their end users ultimately supporting the inclusion of plus size people in workplace design.



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© Annabel Masson

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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