Certified Professional Ergonomists and CDAs

We often overlook the importance of how the mind can affect job performance because of how commonplace it is to observe physical limitations and identifying the hazards that lead to injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

However, when it comes to the psychosocial and mental aspects of the workplace, there is a good chance the effect of a hazard can range from being a mild, moderate or severe impact on your employees. The fact is, we are all different and able to comprehend, process and deal with the different stressors that bombard us during a regular work shift. And why is this? There are several reasons why cognitive demands would affect your workers differently during your employees’ careers. This can include a significant change or addition to essential job duties, a head injury, a medical condition (i.e. requiring a medication or a change in medication), or decline in cognitive function due to aging or onset of chronic disease 1. As a result, you could see a wide range of effects on job performance, satisfaction, attendance, employee retention, benefit claims, strained workplace relationships – to name some examples.

Here is a scenario: For 10 years, George has been an exemplary Team Leader for his group on the assembly line and is the first to attend to tough decisions when workers are troubleshooting an identified defect. He’s a very athletic person and plays recreational rugby on the weekends. Lately George has been distracted and unable to quickly make a snap decision and on several occasions, has been showing irritation with his team for asking for his assistance. His team is now reporting to the Supervisor that they are worried about George’s ability to be a Team Leader because of his unpredictable mood. Distribution centres have also been reporting several products with defects and now the manufacturer must recall all the products made in the last 2 weeks as a preventative measure.

Turns out, George has been suffering from a grade 3 concussion he received several weeks ago and is taking medication. Was George afraid to report his injury to his superiors? Would management have been able to help him by accommodating his injury? What could be used by Human Resources to profile the mental aspects of his job so that they could help George continue in his role while recovering from his brain injury?

A Cognitive Demands Assessment (CDA) is the essential tool needed to objectively identify the cognitive elements of a job. A Certified Professional Ergonomist can perform the CDA, and when combined with a Physical Demands Assessment (PDA), will fully capture and describe the physical and cognitive demands of a job. Through employee observations, and interviews, the completed comprehensive CDA can be used in the Disability Management process to provide Doctors/Specialists, insurance providers, Return to Work Specialists and other stakeholders with objective data about the physical and cognitive requirements of the position. This information is used to develop a plan that will assist your employees for successful return to work (or remain at work) programs.

Certified Professional Ergonomists are individuals with a wide range of training in ergonomics/human factors which covers three domains of specialization: Physical Ergonomics, Cognitive Ergonomics and Organizational Ergonomics 2.

Cognitive ergonomics is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, and how these affect the interactions between humans and elements of a system. This involves things like mental workload, decision-making, skilled performance, human-computer interaction, and work stress 2 and how these affect their ability to optimally perform their job. Note that the goal of the Certified Professional Ergonomist is not to diagnose individual employees’ cognitive abilities. Rather, they objectively observe and document the requirements of the job, which would then be used by the employer, Doctor/Specialist, etc. to aid in providing supports or accommodations for the employee.

Employers may be aware of the January 1st, 2018 introduction of Bill 127, Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act (Schedule 33) 3 and should be prepared for potential claims related to workplace-related chronic mental stress. When you’re ready to bolster your ergonomic initiatives and make use of the invaluable CDA tool, enlisting the professional experience of a Certified Professional Ergonomist4 can help you with the objective documentation of the baseline cognitive demands of a position.

Learn more about Physical and Cognitive Demands Assessments by visiting our Services page.


1) Factors Affecting Cognitive Function in Older Adults: A Turkish Sample Researchgate.net.

2) What is Ergonomics? www.iea.cc/whats/ International Ergonomics Association.

3) Bill 127, Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act (Budget Measures) 2017. Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

4) The Need for Certification Canadian College for the Certification of Professional Ergonomists.

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