ergonomic deliverables May 13, 2021

This is the last part of the 2-part series where I share some “non-ergonomics” services you can provide that are still in line with your experience in ergonomics. The goal of this series is to show you that offering these types of services not only creates the opportunity to generate more revenue in your ergonomic consulting business but also allows you to move the Customer Journey forward.

 “Non-Ergonomics” Service Deliverables You Can Offer to Your Clients (Part 2)

In Part 1, I talked about the Customer Journey to give a clear picture of where you can provide more value. I also introduced “non-ergonomic” services that you can offer, namely Physical Demands Analysis, Functional Capacities Evaluation, Accommodations, and Post Offer Employment Tests. So if you haven’t checked that out yet, I strongly encourage you to look into that first because that will give you the foundation of what I’m going to discuss in this post. In this post, I’ll go into details of each of those “non-ergonomic” deliverables to show you where you can provide value with your background, so you can eventually offer ergonomic services when appropriate.

Leveraging “Non-Ergonomic” Services

Employers in our community require ergonomic assessments in the workplace for various reasons. Traditionally, ergonomics has been thought of as proactive—applying preventative steps to avoid workplace injuries before they happen. However as consultants you might also get a lot of reactive calls, you know putting out fires when there are complaints of pain and discomfort and especially when fitting people back to work. When it comes to mediating fires, “non-ergonomic” solutions may sometimes be necessary. As ergonomic professionals, our skills in measuring the actual physical demands of the job and observing the work being executed are essential to complete an ergonomic assessment. 

In saying that, I talked about Functional Capacity Evaluations, Physical Demands Analysis, and Post Offer Employment Tests in the first part of this series. These services aren't necessarily ergonomics, but they often go hand in hand with what we're doing professionally in that it objectively measures the work. 

There’s a big discrepancy, of course. These services aren’t changing work to reduce the ergonomic risk, but with it, we’re rather measuring work. That's where the fine line is drawn, and I want to make that completely clear for everyone. It's not ergonomics; however, we're still helping our clients with services that are in line with what we can do. It also adds value to that customer's journey so that they’re ready for ergonomics, either reactive or proactive.

1. Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE)

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) or Functional Abilities Evaluation (FAE) is a comprehensive evaluation to determine an employee’s physical and functional capabilities to perform active work duties using objective and measurable tests. The FCE process compares that person's health status, body functions, and structures to the demands of the job and the work environment. 

Your role here as someone conducting this assessment is to lead the person through a number of functional tasks including:

  1. Objective functional testing such as walking, climbing stairs, gripping, reaching, lifting, bending, pushing and pulling objects. 
  2. Repetitive activities and those requiring fine motor skills.  
  3. Life skills and job-specific tasks simulated during the assessment.

A FCE is a key component of return-to-work programs. It evaluates the person’s abilities to ensure they’re ready to return to work after an injury, helps determine risks, and defines impairments.

I took a 2-day course on how to do this correctly when I started working for a particular company. The combination of your knowledge and skills as a healthcare professional and your ergonomic expertise would be beneficial in assessing the physical function of your clients and effectively evaluate that function with regard to their workplace requirements. So if that's something you’re interested in, that’s a great opportunity to offer value to your clients. 

2. Physical Demands Analysis (PDA)

Physical Demands Analysis takes on a variety of names including Physical Demands Profile, Job Demand Analysis, and Job Demand Description. Regardless of the name, the information contained in the document is fairly the same. It's a process used to objectively measure the essential functions of the job. Many organizations will have a PDA of every job as part of their safety protocol. It should be ideally updated on a regular basis or whenever there's a change in the job. PDAs in some organizations can seem like a full-time job to manage, especially in larger organizations! 

Physical Demands Analysis describes several aspects of the jobs, which includes:

  1. Force
  2. Posture and movements present
  3. Frequency
  4. Duration of manual tasks such as lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, gripping, and carrying.
  5. Environmental factors, mental demands, sensory demands, as well as cognitive demands analysis of jobs. 

Since you're describing the demands of the job, this is really useful for return-to-work programs. Like I mentioned in the last post, the Workers' Compensation Board often requires companies to submit a Physical Demand Analysis along with the claim. If you don't do that, they might ask you to do it or bring someone in to do it. PDA is also different from ergonomics analysis and assessments because we're just objectively measuring the physical demands of the job. We're technically not doing the analysis, other than just observing what we're seeing and putting it in the appropriate categories. 

Basically, we’re getting the same measurements that are going to be used for that Functional Abilities Evaluation. This means we can provide as much value to those people doing the functional abilities tests and compare what the abilities are of that person to make the call of whether or not it's safe for that person to return to the pre-injury position or if there's an accommodation required. Both the data you gathered through observation and the objective measurements are needed for a comprehensive job analysis. That’s something that, as an ergonomist, you’re so skilled at. So you’re doing a Job Match and Accommodation, which is something you can add to your resume and bring value to your employer. 

3. Post Offer Employment Testing (POET)

Lastly, I want to talk to you about Post Offer Employment Tests or POETs. POETs require a Physical Demands Analysis to be done FIRST. The person coming into the POETs isn’t injured because it's done after the initial offer of employment. This means the organization has reasoned that it's a good use of their resources to figure out that people who are coming into this position can actually do the physical aspects of the job. Each test has a very specific protocol. So if that person had the physical capacity to pass the test and successfully completed the HR components as well, they'll get the job. 

I've been in many workplaces before who’ve hired people to work for a moving company just to realize that they hired someone with a back injury. So that's not fair to both the person and the company. To prevent that from happening, employers utilize POETs to make sure that that person can complete the physical components of the job. From the employer's perspective, it’s also a way to mediate costly workers’ compensation costs. I get that this isn't the best use of your ergonomics background because we want to prevent the ergonomic risk as much as possible. But sometimes, organizations are just not ready to shift to prevention yet. They just want to put out the fire first and manage the rest of the ergonomics later. 

Since each one of these tests are developed off of the Physical Demands Analysis, I hope that you can see the value of how all these different types of services fit together. These are most useful for those jobs that have a lot of issues with people not being able to do the work. So it’s kind of the opposite of ergonomics. However, POETs can still be another revenue stream for your business.

Want More?

So there you have it. Those are the services that are aligned with what we do professionally that you can leverage from. Those services may not be necessarily ergonomics but they can help build that know, like, and trust factor with employers and add another revenue stream to what you're doing.

When you think of all the physical jobs out there and the likelihood of workplace injury related to the physical aspects of a job, I think there’s a lot of opportunity. So if you like my style to marketing ergonomics and you crave a community of ergonomics professionals, sign up to the waitlist for the Accelerate program.

Fun fact: In June 2021 (just before I open enrollment), I'm going to be bringing in an expert to our Accelerate group to talk about all these different types of services that you can add to your skill set, including Physical Demands Analysis and Functional Abilities Evaluation. This call WILL BE recorded! 

Find out how other healthcare professionals and Ergonomics Consultants are growing their ergonomic businesses and adding value to their communities by joining the waitlist here


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