Physical fitness, absenteeism and workers' compensation in smoking and non-smoking police officers

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Abstract

Background

Employers seek to minimize business costs by creating conditions of employment. Relying on the presumably negative effects of smoking on variables such as workers' compensation claims, absenteeism and physical fitness scores, they seek a rational basis for requirements that employees refrain from smoking. No research has been found on police officer smoking rates relating to physical fitness, and the resulting economic variables of workers' compensation claims and absenteeism rates.

Aims

To compare police officer non-smoker and smoker physical fitness, absenteeism rates and workers' compensation claims.

Methods

The sample included 514 officers of a metropolitan police department. A physical fitness test was administered. Smoking status, yearly absenteeism rates and workers' compensation claims were collected.

Results

Male smokers were significantly older than non-smokers. An analysis of covariance controlling for sex and age indicated that smokers had significantly (P ≤ 0.05) lower fitness scores in sit and reach flexibility, sit-ups endurance, bench press strength and bicycle ergometer cardiovascular endurance. When neither age nor sex was controlled in males, a similar trend continued. However, in females only the sit and reach and sit-up tests demonstrated statistically significant differences. Fat percentage, step-test scores, absenteeism rates and workers' compensation claims were not statistically different.

Conclusion

These data do not provide a rational basis for the requirement that officers refrain from smoking when considering body fat and the economic savings of lower absenteeism rates and workers' compensation. To some extent, smoking policies can be justified by officers' physical fitness but there are age, gender and test protocol considerations.

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