Sounds too easy but employers can help reduce musculoskeletal injuries by making sure that potential employees have an honest idea of the actual physical demands.
Not generic demands that don’t give candidates a solid mental picture of what will be asked of them. Let them know what they need to be able to do, how frequently they need to be able to do it, and the setting in which they will be performing their physical tasks.
Don’t get in the trap of writing that the job requires employees to be able to lift “50 pounds” or “25 pounds” – it might give a false impression of what is expected. Do they have to lift 50 pounds once each day or is it a frequent demand, multiple times per day? Are they lifting it from floor height or shoulder height?
Post offer testing can reduce the risks even further. Post-offer physical abilities testing can help compare a new hire candidate’s physical abilities against the validated physical demands of the position. It allows an employer to make sure that the candidate is able to meet the demands. If they don’t meet the demands, the offer of employment can be rescinded.
Give us a call. We can help you reduce your work related injuries.
All too often, job titles in the DOT get lumped into a closest possible job title instead of a singular, job specific title. In many ways, this dictionary is like a thesaurus when it comes to finding a specific job entry to use as a reference. Due to the fact that a wide range of applicable job titles may all fall under one specific entry, the information is not always as applicable as we would like it to be. Sometimes, it gets the main theme of the job but the demands may be off – or in other cases, the listed physical demand is more of an average of the possible demands.
Not too long ago, I went to a Cowtown Rodeo in southern New Jersey and was wondering how the Dictionary of Occupational Titles would define the demands for a rodeo clown. Rodeo clowns fill a unique role within the world of rodeo. At first glance, they seem to be for entertainment and they do fill that role. However, one type of rodeo clown – the barrelmen – provides the comic relief while the other type of rodeo clown – the bullfighters – help to keep the riders safe when they have fallen off of a bull or a bronco. From observation, it appears that rodeo clowns have to be fast, be agile, have good balance, and an ability to climb fences at times to get out of the way of a bull or bronco. They don’t appear to have the heavy lifting demands of rodeo performers involved in calf roping which requires the ability to pick up a calf and put them back on the ground.
“Demonstrates daring and skill by bronco riding, calf roping, bull riding, steer wrestling, or similar feats in rodeo competition to entertain spectators and compete for prize money.”
It really only covers the rodeo clown in the entertaining spectators portion as the rodeo clowns don’t perform the other tasks listed. And the entry for clown in the DOT does not really seem to cover what a rodeo clown does, other than:
“Dresses in comical costume and makeup and performs original or stock comedy routines to entertain audience.”
There is a huge variation in the physical demands between the two entries. The clown entry places the physical demand as light (20 pounds occasional, 10 pounds frequent, negligible constant) while the rodeo performer entry places the demand at heavy (100 pounds occasional, 50 pounds frequent, 20 pounds constant).
Once could argue that the rodeo clown fits closer to the rodeo performer description at heavy as they may have to help an injured rider up from the ground but DOT entries don’t do a good job of explaining the balance required or describing the surface that the rodeo clowns perform on (a dirt surface that has been churned up by the hooves of horses and cattle) or the need to be able to move quickly out of a need for safety for themselves and others. However, the entry doesn’t explain to a person that hasn’t seen a rodeo clown in action that they may have to sprint to the edge of the arena and quickly climb the fence that separates the audience from the arena to get to safety. Alternatively, the entry for rodeo performer is a little on the light side for use with rodeo riders that perform calf roping – a calf in a competition can weigh between 220 and 280 pounds per competition rules. Being that the roper is trying to get the calf roped, secure, and immobilized they are more likely than not to exceed 100 pounds of force in pushing, pulling, lifting, and carrying.
Ideally, a job description for a job title when being used for comparison during an FCE will include information about the physical demands (lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying and the heights and manners that these tasks are performed) as well as the postural demands (balance, walking, kneeling, squatting, reaching, etc. and how they are performed/where they are performed). Rodeo clowns definitely walk (and run) on uneven terrain that sometimes may be wet or muddy and is definitely slippery – balance and speed of movement for safety is definitely important. Some rodeo performers need to have enough balance to stand on a horse while going around the arena at speed. Their climbing needs are not the usual climbing needs for your standard party or circus clown. As a matter of fact, most jobs don’t require you to climb a 6 to 8 foot fence to escape from a rampaging bull.
In upcoming posts, we will take a look at other job titles to see how well the Dictionary of Occupational Titles matches up against the actual demands of the job. Posts will look at nursing, skilled trades, and many other jobs including a comparison for the personnel that work in Weights and Measures. Some positions, such as nursing, present many of the same issues outlined in this post. The entry for nurse in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles lumps almost all of the varied roles that nurses perform into one singular entry – however, some occupations such as police and fire have breakdowns of the different internal roles. We will visit each of these and look at the impacts that these entries may have on performance of an FCE.
Quick notes: All images in this post are owned by Quin Bond. Usage is available upon request.
“You can arrive at your dream a lot of different ways, but you also arrive there as a different version of yourself based on whatever pathway you choose.” – Joanna Gaines
Post-offer physical abilities testing is something that should really be straight forward. Testing based on the minimum essential postural and physical demands for the position that has been offered to the candidate. Seems pretty simple, the candidate either meets or does not meet the minimum essential demands. But, it isn’t always that simple because the process involves people.
When a candidate fails a post-offer physical abilities test, the employer has to choose what path they will take. Some employers may look to see if the candidate’s abilities meet the demands of different position. Other employers may offer the candidate the opportunity to repeat the test at a later date. Some employers may choose to not re-test.
One of the employers that we work closely with allows candidates to work on improving in the areas in which they did not meet the demands and attempt the test again with the next new hire class. This particular employer has a fairly high passing rate (which is due to a phenomenal hiring process by the employer that helps to make sure that the demands of the position are consistently reinforced during every contact with the candidate), so the number of candidates who do not meet the demands is fairly low. Of those that do not meet the demands on the initial test, some come back to test again. It is a good job with solid benefits and is worth the time and effort for these candidates to try again. Nearly everybody who re-tests comes back physically stronger and with improved range of motion and physical abilities and passes the test. Many comment that not meeting the demands on the initial test was a significant wake-up call about their previous level of fitness. They wish they were able to start the jobs with their original classmates but they are also content with the fact that they have not only done what was required to earn the job but have made lifestyle changes that will benefit them for years to come. We don’t mind repeat tests for this employer as we know most candidates return, changed for the better.
Recently, we had a second test for a candidate from a different employer. This candidate’s scenario was much different. It was the first post-offer failure for the employer and it was a result of lack of medical treatment for an auto-immune disorder that attacked the candidate’s upper extremities in a way that did not allow the candidate to meet the minimum essential demands. The employer did not have alternative positions with decreased physical demands to offer. As the candidate had not yet received treatment for their condition, we suggested to the employer (along with the instruction of talking to their lawyers) that if the candidate has a change in physical function due to treatment that they be re-tested.
When this candidate was scheduled for a second test, I was unsure of what to expect. Luckily, the candidate returned with significantly improved function due to appropriate medical treatment and they were able to meet the minimum essential postural and physical demands of the position. The candidate told us that as a result of not meeting the demands for a position, they realized that they needed to become more proactive with their physician in seeking a successful treatment regimen for their condition. For this candidate, not only did they obtain the position they wanted on the second test, they were able to become a successful advocate for their own healthcare status and understand the importance of that in keeping their condition in check.
In each of these success cases, the post-offer candidates arrived at Point B – meeting the demands and obtaining the position – but they also arrived at Point B as improved versions of themselves with better fitness and abilities, and in the second case a better advocate for their own healthcare.