Jane Doe was employed as an Administrative Assistant when she slipped on a wet floor resulting in an injury to her right necessitating surgical repair. Following a regimen of physical therapy and a functional capacity evaluation, the treating physician opined his patient had reached maximum medical improvement, issued an impairment rating and offered permanent restrictions as sedentary with the ability to alternate sitting and standing as needed. The adjuster requests from the employer a pre-injury “job description” of the employee’s duties at the time of the injury. Upon receipt and review, the adjuster forwards the document to plaintiff’s attorney who, upon examination, notes the “job description” states “must be able to lift up to 50 lbs.” which they note exceeds to the Department of Labor’s definition of Sedentary. Upon further investigation, the employer acknowledged the 50 lbs. lifting requirement takes into consideration the Administrative Assistant lifting a box of copy paper, which would rarely happen, and could be handled by other office personnel. In short, the heaviest item the Administrative Assistant would lift is a 500-sheet ream of copy paper weighing 5 lbs.
Does this sound familiar? In this scenario, what the employer provided to the adjuster was a job description. Job descriptions are mainly the domain of the HR department, and as such, the duty statements of the job description are often the template for employee performance reviews, or a template to list on Indeed when advertising a job vacancy. What should have been requested was a functional job analysis, also known as a physical demands analysis (PDA), which includes a more detailed description of all of the movements (or essential functions) and loads a worker is likely to encounter when performing the job. It will have statements such as:
- Lift 40 lbs. 2/3 of the day.
- Reach above shoulder level 1/3 of the day.
- Carry 40 lbs. 50 ft. 1/3 of the day.
- Power grasp with both hands, essential/non-essential.
- Fingering with both hands, essential/non-essential.
- Exposure to dust and fumes.Walk on uneven surfaces.
- Can accommodations be made?
A functional job analysis comes into play in three primary ways in an employees’ job:
- For the injured worker, a Functional Job Analysis is used in the return to work stage with the pre-injury employer.
- For the injured worker, a Functional Job Analysis is the last stage in the hiring process in the form of a post-offer/pre-employment testing.
- For the injured worker, a Functional Job Analysis is used to deem positions as "safety sensitive" when the injured worker is returning to a light duty position.
Once completed, an accurately written functional job analysis is used as an informational tool for the treating physician, who can review the job duties and match these to the injured worker’s residual physical abilities. The physician is asked for a medically based decision on the worker’s ability to return to work based on the functional job analysis (FDA). Any modifications needed on the job can be pinpointed by the physician and considered by the employer — historically most modifications can be arranged in these circumstances.
In closing, a functional job analysis is critical in matching the worker to the work and are very effective in decreasing the risk of injury and workers’ compensation claims. A functional job analysis is usually performed by someone outside the company with a strong background in vocational rehabilitation such as a Qualified Rehabilitation Professional. If you would like more information on a functional job analysis, or are in need of assistance with this service, please do not hesitate to go to our website or contact me directly.