Over the years, we have found our clients have more successful new candidate hiring programs when the physical and postural demands for a position are clearly explained in all phases of the hiring process – starting with advertising the position.
The demands from this job posting don’t offer potential new team members a clear idea of what will be expected of them physically. If you include a post-offer pre-employment testing process, including the demands in your job postings as well as in materials handed out during the hiring process help to make sure that new hire candidates are not testing for unexpected physical demands.
We can help you improve your hiring process and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries by helping to improve your job descriptions through measurement of essential postural and physical demands.
The issue of climbing (or to be more specific ascending and descending) in job descriptions is typically problematic. Often, job descriptions tend to not acknowledge climbing activities – whether the climbing is in the ascending/descending of stairs, stepladders, vertical ladders on structures and vehicles, or any other type of climbing device. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll visit some of these situations more specifically.
For now, we are going to look at the issue of when an elevator might not be an accommodation for someone who has a restriction or physical limitation that might not allow them to use the stairs. While newer buildings typically provide elevators in order to meet ADA compliance needs, not all buildings have elevators (my current office building does not). Some schools have incorporated wheelchair lifts and elevators to allow students in wheelchairs to be able to access stages and rooms that were only accessible by stairs. It would seem that these lifts/elevators would be a potential accommodation for staff that could not use the stairs, but this is not always the case.
In one particular school system that we visited to assist with customized job descriptions, it is not an acceptable accommodation. This particular school works with students who have behavioral issues and as such has specific guidelines for movement of students between classrooms. For students to move from one classroom to another, a teacher and a paraprofessional accompany the class, one at the head of the line and one at the end. This particular procedure is followed in all hallways and specifically when using the stairs to access the gymnasium. The elevator does not work as an accommodation as it takes one of the two responsible adults away from their position in monitoring the students for an extended period of time. For the elevator to be an acceptable accommodation for an employee, in this circumstance, it would require assigning an additional staff member when they enter/leave from the gymnasium to provide appropriate coverage of the students.
In the event a student needs to use the elevator, that student has an additional aide that monitors them in the hallways and can go to the bottom/top to wait while other professionals are with the student and class.
Learning to live with and train a very energetic rescue puppy has been a great refresher on a lot of safety topics that we all tend to talk about but don’t always put into practice. I’ll be sharing some of the reminders that Moxie, our Australian cattle dog-beagle mix, has been teaching me over the next couple of weeks. The first lesson that she has taught us is communication.
Weekly puppy training classes have been as much for us as they have been for Moxie. The class instructor is very big on teaching both verbal commands as well as non-verbal commands.
She spent a significant portion of the first class reminding us that the non-verbal commands are important because we may be in situations where verbal commands may either not be appropriate or effective. In noisy areas, verbal commands may be lost to the ambient noise or just add to the confusion of the situation. When I used to be part of a team performing Functional Capacity Evaluations as well as when I helped run a team doing motion analysis research, non-verbal communication via hand signals or facial expressions was a very important part of not adding distractions for the person being tested. Sometimes, it would be to let a team member know to pay extra attention to a movement or a behavior. In an industrial setting, the equipment may be too noisy to be heard above it. Knowing what specific hand signals mean in that kind of setting can be the difference between working effectively and needing to call the emergency squad.
Moxie is working on learning to live with and listen to the four two-legged people in our house. Working on Moxie’s training has also been a work in progress for the four of us in being consistent with the specific words that we use with her. There are so many words that we as people can utilize to mean the same thing because we can interpret intent based on tone, volume, and setting. That is not so easy for our four legged addition – two of the phrases that we are working on maintaining clarity of intent are “stay” and “wait”.
“Wait” for dogs is a temporary command. To a dog, it indicates that they need to temporarily hang out where they are until a command is given to them to be released. It can be used to tell them to wait until you put a leash on/take the leash off or until you open their crate.
“Stay” is a more permanent command. Stay is letting the dog know that it will be there, either sitting or laying down, until you come back to them. It lets them know that it may be a while and not just the short period of time to click on a leash or put food in a dish.
A simple example, that often causes injuries in the workplace, it the confusion of the countdown when performing a task. It always makes for a funny scene in a movie or sitcom when the count stops so that one person can ask the other if the lift is “on 1” or “after 1”. Unfortunately, there are many fatal incidents every year that are due to communication errors. One of the contributing factors to the crash of Avianca Flight 52 from Bogota to New York was a communication error regarding the fuel state of the passenger plane. While most laypeople would take the phrase “we’re running low on fuel” to be a problem, that is not the common wording in aviation for declaring an inflight emergency. Because the flight crew didn’t accurately communicate their fuel state – which was dangerously low – to the tower, the tower did not know that Avianca Flight 52 was running on fumes. Avianca Flight 52 was unable to make their first landing attempt and had to go around for a second attempt. This second attempt ended when the plane ran out of fuel 20 miles short of the runway. Better communication of their dangerously low fuel state would have potentially allowed for a successful first landing attempt.
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been getting better at interpreting Moxie’s verbal cues (barking) communication and her non-verbal (tapping, nipping at my elbow) to know when she is hungry, her toy has gotten stuck behind something, or that it is time for a trip outside for the bathroom. I don’t have it all down yet, but I am getting there.
NJ Ergonomics is proud to be able to support public risk managers in reducing the risks to public employees who are responsible for the day to day operations of public entities.
We have worked with local and county entities to help improve job descriptions by measuring the essential minimum physical and postural demands for many different job titles – from police and road crews to sanitation workers and buildings and grounds employees. Defining the essential minimum physical and postural demands allows these public employers to reduce risk through post-offer pre-employment physical abilities testing as well as providing more accurate job descriptions to help guide physicians and physical therapists when providing care and treatment to injured workers. These improved job demands also help risk managers and department heads find appropriate modified duty positions based on both an employee’s current abilities and temporary restrictions from treating physicians.
We have also helped public employers reduce risk by providing ergonomic suggestions for task performance. Sometimes, these suggestions are as simple as changing the locations of supplies on shelves to help employees lift using biomechanical advantage by placing heavier objects within their power zones. Other times, these suggestions may be in the form of equipment or process changes that improve job task safety or reduce the physical demands of a task.
Our services help public risk managers and department heads meet those functions by providing a unique eye to a job environment with our background in functional capacity evaluations. We’ve seen the different ways employees can be injured in different environments and we bring that knowledge with us as we scan and identify risks while providing objective information about the essential minimum physical and postural demands of assigned job tasks. Providing solid, objective information on the physical and postural demands can help risk managers and department supervisors better analyze the risks when bringing an individual back on modified duty to ensure that the employee is able to complete assigned tasks safely while allowing them to remain a productive member of their team.
Contact us at (732) 796-7370 to set a time for a complimentary review of your current job descriptions or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.