2012 WorkNEWS – Job Analysis Article

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

By Debra Lord, PT, CEAS | Job Ready Services

Do the tasks in your life seem to loom large? It is overwhelming to think about all the plates you try to keep spinning at work and at home – like eating an elephant, the whole job seems impossible.

Imagine a fit, productive workforce with little or no turnover. Imagine protocols and policies in place that promote safe employees staying in their jobs with only minor injuries and quick, safe return-to-work after an injury (in most cases, no out of work time at all!).

It all starts with an accurate job analysis. Take the first step to a fit and safe workforce and significant reductions in your workers’ comp costs, by making sure your job descriptions actually match the employees’ current job duties. Not having an accurate job description, with the physical demand requirements included, could result in the following:

  • New employees will be at greater risk of injury, and subsequently more likely to file workers’ comp claims,  because they have not been properly screened for the position
  • New employees have no idea what is physically required for them to do the job
  • Existing employees that are unable to do the job will continue in the job and put themselves as well as others at risk for injury
  • Employers will be put at risk if the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) comes to call
  • New employees will leave the job soon after hire, because they either weren’t able to do the job or they didn’t understand the tasks involved
  • It will cost employers a LOT of money!

Generic statements in job analyses are particularly concerning. “Must be able to lift 50 pounds” is only accurate if you can identify the object(s) that weigh 50 lbs and cannot identify any other object(s) that weigh more than 50 pounds. Or worse yet, “Must be able to lift 50 pounds or more”. What is “more?” Fifty-one pounds? Ninety-nine pounds? The EEOC will ask that question. Furthermore, how is the object handled? Is there a lift assist? Are the employees lifting the object from the floor to chest level? Are they lifting overhead? How often are they lifting it?

If someone is able to lift 50 pounds one time and they struggle to lift it even once, do you think it will be safe for them to lift it several times a day? Is pushing or pulling part of the job and if so, have you measured the forces it takes to push or pull on the job?

As the job analysis was completed, were risk factors identified? Could and should modifications be made to the job to eliminate those risk factors? Were ergonomic factors considered? What input did you receive in developing your job analyses? Did you get information from several different sources, such as a good cross-section of your employees? What about tasks that are only completed intermittently, but are still an essential function of the job?

Sometimes it makes sense to have a third party perform a job analysis – preferably a Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist and someone familiar with musculoskeletal disorders and how certain job tasks contribute to those disorders. An objective, thorough job analysis is beneficial in determining the true parameters of the job and the physical demands required to perform it.

So, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! How do you develop a fit workforce and reduce injuries in the workplace? Start with a job analysis – one step at a time!