Deciding How Many PDAs You Need

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Are you looking to do PDAs (Physical Demands Assessments) this year?  Not sure where to start or how many you need to do? This is a common challenge we experience when helping clients 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 are 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.  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.

We encountered this recently while preparing to do some work at a Child Care Centre. One might think an Early Childhood Educator (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.

Similarly, another client had a Facility Operator position at a municipal community centre.  Although they may have the same general job description across all community centre locations, the physical demands at each centre may differ. For example, one centre may have an arena so the Facility Operator is required to use the ice resurfacer (sitting) and other tools related to maintaining the ice. Another centre may have a pool instead of an arena, and so would have different associated physical demands. To best capture these demands, it made the most sense to do separate PDAs for Facility Operators based on the type of amenities at the community centre.

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 20 Administrative Assistants, you may not necessarily need 20 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 is a big time saver.

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). Remember that jobs where more injuries have occurred and/or jobs with a large number of employees doing the same position are typically the best places to start.

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