October 2020 Newsletter:

Getting Started with PDAs


Are you considering doing PDAs (Physical Demands Assessments) for the jobs within your organization?

Not sure where to start or how many you need to do? Whether a small- or large-scale project, this is a common challenge we hear from our clients when helping to determine what is best for their site. Often times our clients want to minimize costs (and who doesn’t?) by ‘doubling up’ on PDAs. This typically involves combining several jobs together under one PDA heading because they appear to be similar. Sometimes this can work, but the thing to remember as you try to work out how many PDAs you need is your end goal or use. A PDA is most often used in Return to Work (RTW) cases. In these situations, a PDA that is specific to the job you are considering offering for RTW will help you quickly and easily see whether it’s suitable or not and whether any modifications are necessary for accommodation.

Here are a few examples:

A position titled “Operator” within a municipal roads crew: There is likely one job description that gives a high level overview of the various tasks a crew could do on any given day (e.g. brush removal, asphalt patching, weed trimming, guard rail repair). However, each of these tasks actually requires quite different physical demands (with respect to lifting, frequencies of movements, tools used, etc.). To accurately capture the physical demands and have a usable document for RTW purposes, you’d want to complete a separate PDA for each of these major tasks (or you could also consider 1 PDA with an individual section for each task; a task-based PDA).

Consider Early Child Hood Educator (ECE) at a Child Care Centre. One might think an ECE is the same all around and try to do one PDA for all positions regardless of the classroom (infant, toddler, pre-school, kindergarten, etc.). The issue with this is that the physical demands of the infant and toddler rooms are higher than working with the older children as they have to spend much more time lifting and helping the children. A kindergarten ECE is rarely going to lift a child, except in the case of an emergency. To ensure the PDAs were as usable as possible, it made the most sense to do a separate PDA for the ECE in each type of classroom to best highlight the physical demands required in each.

For other positions where the physical demands differences are more subtle between departments and locations, such as an Administrative Assistant, it could be practical to do one PDA to cover off several jobs. Even though you may have 10 Administrative Assistants, you may not necessarily need 10 different PDAs. In these cases, it is important to observe and collect data from a representative sample of Administrative Assistants to make sure the range of demands is accounted for between the different departments and locations. You can always do an update of the PDA if needed for a specific department but having a template ready and available will help to save time.

Begin the process by pulling up a list of the jobs at your organization. Group jobs that you know have similar physical demands to get a rough idea of how many PDAs you may need. You can always fine tune that list, keeping in mind your end goal (i.e. using it for RTW and accommodation purposes).

Then prioritize that list. You may want to consider doing PDAs for these jobs/tasks first:

  • Jobs/tasks involved in active claims/RTW cases
  • Jobs/tasks with higher frequency of injuries or near misses
  • Jobs/tasks with a large number of employees doing the same position
  • Jobs/tasks that are likely to be considered for accommodation

With your list ready, it’s time to get started! For more information on what should be included to ensure your PDAs are objective with the right amount of detail, make sure to check out our October webinar.

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