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December 2012

Analyze It: Go On... Analyze It

Scott Valorose 2012  Posted by Scott Valorose

Analyzing work dates back more than 100 years ago from pioneers like Frederick Taylor, and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth.   The purpose or focus of the analysis, of course, can vary; from developing “One Best Way” in an effort to maximize production, to easing the likelihood of worker fatigue and injury while completing work on schedule and under budget.

Why would you want to analyze your jobs?  According to the Department of Labor’s Revised Handbook for Analyzing Jobs, analyses can help provide a basis for:

  • Recruitment, selection, and placement of workers
  • Training programs
  • Performance standards
  • Identifying safety hazards

Another critical reason to analyze the work your employees perform - help injured employees transition back to work as soon as possible following an injury.  By providing treating physicians with the required physical demands or skill sets that one needs to safely perform a job, medical providers should be better able to make qualified and descriptive job restrictions, when necessary.

Physical Demand Assessments (PDAs) are a systematic means of describing and documenting the essential and non-essential physical activities of a job.  Consider conducting PDAs for all jobs, but if resources dictate, consider them for jobs incurring frequent losses or for jobs that employ the majority of people.  Also consider conducting these assessments on jobs considered to be physically easier.  PDAs should include:

  • A summary of the job, including its purpose
  • Essential and non-essential job tasks
  • Equipment and tools used
  • Physical demands
    • Mobility / position: walking, sitting, standing, etc
    • Manual material handling: lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling
    • Posture: bending, reaching, squatting
    • Hand activity: grasping, pinching, palm press, fingering

The format and detail should fit your company’s human resources and medical management needs.  For example, lifting could include lifting below the waist, waist to shoulders, and/or above the shoulders.  Frequency of demands could be identified using the Dictionary of Occupational Titles categories of Occasional (up to 1/3rd of the time), Frequent (1/3rd – 2/3rds of the time), and Constant (2/3rds or more of the time).  But further detail could also be provided by using Never, Rare, or Seldom.  Other conditions or demands that could be incorporated include environmental conditions (e.g., noise, vibration, outdoors), cognitive demands, and sensory demands.

Information on PDAs or job analyses can be found in MEMIC’s Safety Director by searching, “Stay at Work” and “Physical Task Analysis”.  Other resources and examples can be found at:


Active Sitting and Ergonomic Health

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

A few of my business account contacts have posed the question of what to look for in an ergonomic chair.  The short answer is adjustment features.  While a chair with multiple adjustment features offers ergonomic benefit, sitting for prolonged periods in any chair will eventually induce discomfort.  This is part of the reason I don't recommend a particular manufacturer's chair.  When we sit stationary, there is more pressure on our spinal discs than when standing, muscle activity becomes static, and pressure receptors in our back, hamstring, and buttock area sound a silent alarm to shift posture.  Otherwise, discomfort sets in.

Regardless of the chair maker or style, be sure it has multiple adjustments.  Chair height, seat pan angle, and lumbar support adjustments are all critical to proper ergonomic fit.  Most chairs come with adjustable arms; however, most people cannot adjust the arms to fit properly.  The common recommendation is to remove the arms; then they can’t be used in awkward postures such as with shoulders shrugged or leaning to one side. 

When it comes to sitting, the best posture is the next posture for promotion of dynamic muscle activity and relief from static discomfort.  The bottom line is sitting just isn’t very good for us and dynamic posture is helpful when we are forced to sit for long periods.  Better yet, be sure to get up and move around frequently.  Get the blood flowing, stay limber, and stretch gently to promote better health.  Lastly, remember that ergonomics is important at home as well as at work.   

MEMIC offers many safety tools and resources; check out our Ergonomic Safety Tips  available at  OSHA also offers a Work Station E-Tool with helpful information regarding proper office setup and chair adjustments.