May 2018 Newsletter:

The Smart Money is on a Physical Demands Assessment

A Physical Demands Assessment (PDA) is a document designed to summarize the essential duties of a job, specifically considering the physical elements such as strength, mobility and postural requirements to assist with the return to work process. These documents are most frequently used by persons associated with the disability management program including the WSIB, case managers, claims managers, and medical practitioners.

A well-written and thorough document can be incredibly helpful; painting a clear picture of how the current job demands are already, or can be accommodated, to match an employee’s abilities. The key to all this, however; is how usable and thorough the document is.

Although these documents are inherently similar, not all PDAs are created equal, some provide significantly greater detail regarding the job demands. The most common factor that sets one PDA apart from another is objectivity. Weights, frequencies, durations, ranges of motion, etc. are measurable parameters which should be included and easily located for speed and effectiveness of the RTW process. Unfortunately, not all PDA documents go to sufficient lengths to provide these details, instead providing basic ranges and information that is open to interpretation or too general to be usable.

Consider the situation where an employee has a lifting restriction of “occasional lifting of no more than 10 lb.” If you know some tools and equipment they handle are greater than 10 lb. but you don’t know exactly which ones, how can you figure out how to accommodate this individual? The answer, you can’t, unless you go and take several weights yourself, which is time consuming and costly in delays.

Essentials of a PDA

A PDA should, at minimum, include the following:

  • Essential Duties Overview: A breakdown, including frequencies and durations, of each of the pertinent duties of the position.
  • Strength Demands: Documentation, including frequencies, weights, and forces, of all lifting, carrying, and pushing/pulling requirements.
  • Mobility Demands: Documentation, including frequencies and durations, of all movement related demands (e.g. walking, standing, sitting, climbing, driving).
  • Postural Demands: Documentation, including frequencies, ranges of motion, and any measurements (e.g. reach distances), for all body parts from top to bottom.

Although it’s used in the return to work process, the best time to complete a PDA is before an injury occurs, not afterwards – it’s also the best time to evaluate and update your PDAs if you need to.

Proactively having objective and thorough PDAs in place ensures that when an injury occurs, the process is quick and seamless. The disability manager or HR person can send the WSIB information about the physical demands of the job with Form 7 and start the process of returning the employee virtually the minute the employee goes off.

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

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