How can PCDAs save you money?

cost-justifying physical and cognitive demands analyses

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Physical and cognitive demands analyses (PCDAs), in contrast to ergo assessments, provide only a summary of job requirements. They don’t include an analysis of injury risk or recommendations to reduce those risks. So technically, they don’t directly result in improvements to a job. How could they save an organization money?

Let’s assume that you work for Cookie Corp., an organization of 400 employees, with one claims manager who handles WSIB and injury/illness absences. In a typical year, Cookie Corp. experiences:

– 34 WSIB claims (lost-time and medical aid requiring modified work)

– 40 short-term and long-term disabilities claims

– 200 modified-work days per year, from 30 claims

– 100 lost-time days per year, from 4 claims

– 55% of all claims are strain/sprain injuries

I’ve made assumptions about pay rates, which you’ll see at the bottom of this article. My cost estimates are based on salary plus overhead costs (vacation, benefits, etc.). I did not include WSIB benefit costs, which can be 4-7 times higher than salary costs. Therefore, I’ve created a very, very conservative estimate of real costs.

PCDAs summarize the demands of a job in a way that can be understood by health care providers, the WSIB, supervisors, and insurance companies. They are meant to assist in returning ill or injured workers to the workplace.

An objective (measurement-based) PCDA can:

    • Save the time of the claims manager by providing job summaries that are easily understood by the WSIB or insurance carrier. Let’s assume you save two hours of time for every claim.


    • Allow the claims manager to provide information to the insurer earlier, getting those 4 lost-time injuries back to work a few days earlier.


    • Provide modified work that is efficient. Modified work is typically less efficient than regular duties; you might assign workers to tasks that are not normally a full job, or workers might require assistance for some tasks. If you have good PCDAs for real jobs that do fall within the injured workers’ capabilities (perhaps half of all claims), you can assign workers to jobs where they can be 100% efficient on modified work.


    • Help supervisors to review job demands with workers and identify appropriate accommodations, objectively. Assume the worker and supervisor can get through the accommodation process one hour faster.


The total comes to $23140 per year. (Not including WSIB benefit costs.)

But there’s more. The PCDAs can also:

    • Help the claims adjudicator at WSIB or the insurance company to understand the pre-injury job, and the return-to-work offer. The information in a PCDA allows more informed decisions to be made, ultimately resulting in better outcomes. If a worker is placed in an appropriate job when returning to work, you avoid aggravating the injury, saving lost time. If a claim needs to be rejected or questioned, objective reports are invaluable. Employers have told us about specific cases where our PCDAs have saved them tens of thousands of dollars.

    • Help healthcare providers understand job demands and make better decisions about how to optimize the treatment plan for the employee and when they can return to work.

PCDAs have benefits beyond claims management, which can also offer financial benefits:

    • If you post the PCDAs with an internal job posting, employees can decide whether they are suitable for the job demands before they apply. If you’ve ever trained an employee to do a job, only to have them leave within a week, you can appreciate the value of posting information about the physical demands of a job. If it takes a week to train a new worker on a job, you’d save at least $800 every time you avoided a poor placement.

    • The PCDAs provide a step-by-step breakdown, with photographs, of how to perform the job, which are useful in training new employees.

    • The JHSC can use the PCDAs to screen jobs for MSD hazards. The PCDAs offer a way to  review the demands of jobs that might not be occurring on the day the inspection is done. The PCDA is also the most logical starting point for a detailed ergonomics assessment; once we’ve gathered this information about the job, the risk evaluation is much faster.

    • Supervisors can use PCDAs to create job rotation schedules that allow muscle recovery where jobs involve repetitive, awkward demands. This allows workers to safely perform jobs that they might not be able to do for a full shift.

    • If your organization is talking about diversity, equity and inclusion, you might be concerned about those jobs where only “big, strong men” can work. You will need to put some effort into creating jobs that can be done by anyone. A PCDA identifies high force demands, so you can begin to modify those hard jobs to become more inclusive. (I’ll talk more about that in a future article.)

When ergonomists support accommodation, we often recommend changes that benefit all workers, not just the injured worker. Once we’ve finished the PCDAs for “most demanding” jobs and the jobs you use for modified work, the client usually gets interested in making improvements to jobs. And this is where the big savings can start, by preventing injuries instead of managing them.

In summary, PCDAs can help organizations save a significant amount of money by reducing lost time and modified duties, saving time for the claims manager and supervisors, avoiding aggravation of injuries, and providing valuable information to healthcare providers and the JHSC.

Our clients say:

“Most often the case manager along with the doctor are provided information from the employee perspective of what their job entails. A proper PCDA clearly identifies the required information to the case manager or to the doctor, and the PCDA is the tool which will help place the worker back into the workplace safely and in a timely fashion, working for both the employee and employer. The up-front cost of having PCDAs for your facility without question will provide a return on the initial investment. One WSIB lost time claim can run an organization into the thousands of dollars.”

“When a doctor states, ‘Please provide modified duties for 14 days’….what does that really mean for a supervisor or the injured employee? When you look at a back injury, you will need the actual PCDA to determine if the job requires lifting, twisting, reaching, standing etc.., as well as the frequency of tasks. If a supervisor makes a mistake in offering the wrong duties based on subjectiveness it could make the offer of modified work not suitable. The guidance of the PCDAs would help to ensure that the data provided is an accurate representation of the body mechanics required to perform the tasks at hand.”

My assumptions:

– a pay rate of $30/hour for the claims manager (not including benefits or overhead)

– a pay rate of $28/hour for the supervisor

– a pay rate of $20/hour for workers in the facility.

– modified work is 50% efficient on average

– to account for overhead, I assumed a rate of 1.25 times the employee’s base salary. This is the low end of the range reported at:

– I used employee salary and overhead costs only, to represent lost-time injury costs. 100 days from 4 injuries would cost $20000 by this method. In fact, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) of Ontario, the average cost per lost-time injury claim in the manufacturing sector in 2020 was $29,291 (or $117,164 for 4 injuries). This cost includes medical expenses, wage replacement, and other associated costs.  (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. (2017). Statistical supplement to the WSIB’s 2016 Annual Report. Toronto, ON) To get real WSIB cost data for your own facility, check out

– I assumed that the PCDA would get the worker back to work 4 days earlier, based on a study which found that using PDDs reduced the average number of lost work days for injured workers by 4.4 days. The study also found that this process reduced the average workers’ compensation claim costs by $9,100 USD.  (Tullar, J. M., Brewer, S., Amick III, B. C., Irvin, E., Mahood, Q., Pompeii, L. A., & Van Eerd, D. [2010]. Occupational safety and health interventions to reduce musculoskeletal symptoms in the health care sector. Journal of occupational rehabilitation, 20(2), 199-219.)


1. What specific criteria and methodologies are employed in a Physical and Cognitive Demands Analysis (PCDA), and how do these analyses assist in returning ill or injured workers to the workplace, particularly in terms of injury risk analysis and risk reduction recommendations? Physical and Cognitive Demands Analyses (PCDAs) employ specific criteria and methodologies to provide a comprehensive summary of job requirements, facilitating understanding by various stakeholders such as health care providers, WSIB, supervisors, and insurance companies. While PCDAs do not directly result in job improvements, they play a crucial role in assisting the return of ill or injured workers to the workplace by offering objective, measurement-based analyses of job demands

2. Beyond the monetary savings outlined in the article, how do PCDA reports contribute to better-informed decisions by claims adjudicators at WSIB or insurance companies, ultimately resulting in better outcomes for injured workers and potentially avoiding additional costs associated with aggravated injuries or disputed claims? PCDA reports contribute to better-informed decisions by claims adjudicators at WSIB or insurance companies. The detailed information in a PCDA enables adjudicators to comprehend the pre-injury job and the return-to-work offer more effectively. This understanding leads to more informed decisions, preventing the aggravation of injuries and potentially saving costs associated with lost time. Additionally, if a claim needs to be rejected or questioned, objective PCDA reports prove invaluable, offering financial benefits by averting unnecessary expenses.

3. In the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion, how can a PCDA help organizations modify physically demanding jobs to become more inclusive, especially those traditionally perceived as suitable only for certain demographics? How does the analysis identify and address high-force demands to support the creation of more inclusive work environments? In terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, a PCDA plays a crucial role in identifying and modifying physically demanding jobs to be more inclusive. By highlighting high-force demands, organizations can initiate changes to create jobs that can be performed by anyone, addressing concerns about jobs traditionally perceived as suitable only for specific demographics. This proactive approach aligns with the broader goal of fostering inclusive work environments and preventing injuries, thereby contributing to long-term savings by avoiding the need for injury management.

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