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Automated risk assessments from Functional Job Descriptions – using PDAi and the Demand Score to look at risk in your workplace

Written by Mike Sonne, PhD, CCPE

Typically – a physical demands description, or a function job description, has served as a cookbook – a recipe to determine the ingredients required to complete a job, but nothing like a food critique that would tell you if that job was good or bad. If someone needed to do a risk assessment of a job, a separate analysis would occur, and depending on how that assessment was completed, a third analysis might be required to dive deeper into the risks associated with a job. Using the JOBX system featuring PDAi to complete your functional job descriptions can automate this process, allowing you to quickly determine which of your jobs might have the highest risks, then measure the impact of your changes. Here’s an example of how that is accomplished.

First, I selected the Landscaper job from the JOBX database. Knowing that I had some yard work to do this weekend, I figured I would be a good subject to test out how PDAi could be used, but also make sure that I was capable of performing these tasks!

Knowing that I wasn’t going to be performing this job quite as intensely as our database version, I made some quick changes to the job using the easy edit mode, then added a few tasks from the system to better understand the work demands. Those three tasks were: 1) transporting mulch, 2) trimming hedges, and 3) raking up yard debris. Looking into the tools at my disposal, I did these tasks with ergonomic modifications (a hedge trimmer on a telescoping handle, a yard waste vacuum, and a push cart for mulch bags), and with poor ergonomics (hand held hedge trimmers, a rake, and carrying mulch bags). After a quick customization of my physical demands (it took about 15 minutes per job), I built up two job profiles: 

The one without ergonomic interventions:

And the one with:

Then, I filmed videos of each of the three tasks, in both the good ergo and bad ergo configuration of my landscaping chores. 

Mulch lifting

Debris clearing

Trimming hedges

Then, I ran these through the PDAi analysis to produce the risk graphs, as well as the kinematics report outlining my range of motion in both jobs. 

Bad Ergonomics:

Good Ergonomics

As you can see, I’m not in a lot of really terrible postures for long periods of time – which is great news because I won’t hurt myself before getting in some of my other weekend hobbies. However, the risk is much lower when we look at the good ergonomics graph compared to the bad ergonomics graph. This is happening because I’m spending much less time with my hands above my shoulders, and keeping my shoulders out of significant flexion and abduction. You can see that from the kinematics reports.

Bad Ergonomics:

Good Ergonomics:

As you can see here, in the good ergonomics scenario, my upper arms are in a neutral posture 21 to 32% more than they are in the bad ergonomics situation, and I’m also not reaching as far into that tertiary reach zone like I was in the bad ergonomics situation. 

As we’ve previously talked about, The MyAbilities Demand Score is a very useful tool for triaging jobs – it lets you find out what jobs have the highest demands, then allows you to track the performance of the worker in those jobs pre and post ergonomics intervention. In this situation, I reduced the amount of carrying I had to do, and replaced that with pushing, reduced how much handling of mulch and clippers I had to, reduced my grip force with the telescoping hedge trimmer, and reduced reaching distance by using the debris vacuum instead of the rake. As a result, I saw a reduction in my Demand Score from 77, down to 56 – overall, a 27% reduction in the overall demands of this job. Looking at the body avatars in the job profiles you can also see the demands were reduced significantly in the arms with these ergonomics interventions. 

JOBX is meant to automate the return to work and injury process by using your data to do more. Not only are you able to quickly build an accurate and comprehensive database of jobs that you can use for return to work, you can start putting a number on your hard work when ergonomic changes are made in your workplace. 

Take a look at these digital job profiles to find out more about how MyAbilities can help your company manage risk and expedite return to work.

Good Ergonomics Landscaper:

Bad Ergonomics Landscaper: