Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Governmental Regulations for Early Retirement by Means of Energy Expenditure Cut Offs

Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Governmental Regulations for Early Retirement by Means of Energy Expenditure Cut Offs

Article excerpt

Objectives Long-term heavy work impairs employees, and they may retire prematurely by law. We investigated the value of energy expenditure (EE) during work shifts as a means to define heavy workload.

Methods The study comprised 79 male [mean age 32.2 (standard deviation [SD] 7.5) years] and 33 female [33.5 (SD 1 1 .2) years] employees in different occupations classified as "heavy work" (EE of 1400 and 2000 kcal for women and men, respectively). Cycle ergometry determined exercise performance. Gas exchange measures were performed during selected phases of work, and heart rate (HR) recordings were obtained for a complete work shift. EE was calculated from gas exchange measures.

Results Male and female subjects differed significantly for maximal power output (P^sub max^) [men=206.3 (SD 47.3) watts; women=149.6 (SD 36.1) watts] and maximal oxygen consumption (VO^sub 2max^) [men=2.965 (SD 0.63) 1/min; women= 1.958 (SD 0.50) 1/min] in the cycle ergometer test. Shift HR (HR^sub sh^) was found between 102 (SD 14) b/min [57.6 (SD 8.5) percentage of maximal HR (% HR^sub max^] and 99 (SD 10) b/min [55.5 (SD 5.9) % HR^sub max^ dependent on tasks and groups. Working EE was found between 1 864 (SD 732) kcal and 1 249 (SD 609) kcal for men and women, respectively, but approximately 60% of subjects were well below the legal limits.

Conclusions The legal definition of heavy workload by mean working EE per 8-hour work shift applies to all investigated occupations; however, a substantial proportion of workers may not fulfill the criterion if applied individually. Alternative definitions of heavy workload in terms of absolute oxygen consumption or EE relative to cardiorespiratory fitness lead to similar classification results of the investigated occupations.

Key terms gas exchange measures; heavy workload; heart rate monitoring; retirement plan.

The working population over 50 years of age will grow considerably (1, 2); however, work ability mainly for high-demanding work may not increase to the same extent and is even expected to decrease (3). Especially hard work and shift work are related to higher risk of cardiovascular disease and early retirement (4-6), which is a major social problem in most western countries. Hannerz et al (7) nicely showed that hard physical work is an independent risk factor for disability retirement and, from this point of view, employees performing hard work for prolonged time may be allowed to retire earlier than usual applying defined rules for retirement. Karpansalo et al (8, 9) showed that physical fitness was significantly associated with the risk of disability pension among employees presenting a maximal oxygen consumption (VO^sub 2max^) <26 ml/kg/min who had a 4.66fold risk of disability pension due to cardiovascular disease.

In order to regulate early retirement, several parameters have been applied to define workload in some European countries. In these concepts, physical working capacity plays a major role. The main variable used is VO2 during work, which is suggested to be the most important factor defining hard work. Hard work may, therefore, be defined as being in the range of 33-50% of VO^sub 2max^ (10), an overall acceptable limit avoiding anaerobic metabolism during work (11-13). Additionally, Bink (14) suggested that one third of the maximal aerobic capacity is acceptable for energy expenditure (EE) during eight hours of work.

Another alternative to define hard work is the absolute VO2 during occupation measured in 1/min. In defining hard work that should not be exceeded, Astrand et al (15) suggested a limit of 1 litre of VO2.

In 2006, an Austrian law concerning job-related early retirement (16) was established stemming from demographic changes that can be seen in all European countries (17,1 8). In line with these changes, rules for early retirement were adapted with respect to life-long hard workload including a new definition of hard work by means of shift work EE (16). …

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