What is the best format for a physical and cognitive demands analysis?

Estimated reading time: 2:45

Full disclosure: We admit to bias on this debate, given that we’ve spent over 20 years working on our physical (and now cognitive) demands analysis template. In fact, rarely a week goes by without us making a modification to our template, to improve it in one way or another. But here is a longer answer….

There are many available physical demands analysis formats, including:

WSIB’s Physical Demands Information Form

OHCOW’s Physical Demands Description handbook

WSPS Fillable PDA form

Ours. (No, we can’t give it to you, but our process is described here.)

There are relatively few templates available for cognitive demands analysis, but the City of Toronto’s method is, in our opinion, the most practical. A summary of their cognitive and behavioural criteria used to be posted on the City’s website, but it is no longer there. Here is a research reference.

The best format for PDA/CDAs at your company depends on:

What resources you have available to complete the analyses. Clearly, descriptive formats require considerably more time than checklists. The analyst needs to really understand the job, talk with the worker and supervisor, measure demands, and photograph tasks. Checklists are most often completed without full exploration of the job demands, and are therefore quicker to complete.

What you intend to use them for. A checklist might be able to “flag” the presence of a demand (e.g. lifting > 5 kg), but won’t give you much information about which tasks are associated with it, or how the demand might be avoided. For a PDA/CDA  to be useful, you need to be able to understand when and why each demand is present. Perhaps heavy lifting only occurs during changeovers, or when certain products are running on a line. Perhaps attention to detail is only required when performing a specific task, such as comparing ID codes during inventory.

A few of our pet peeves to be aware of:

–          The use of “frequency” criteria such as “rarely, occasional, frequent, and constant”, even when accompanied by apparently objective criteria, can be misleading. For example, defining “occasional” as 3-33% of the shift may create a dilemma for the analyst who is studying a job with 5 lifts every cycle. These lifts might require only 15 seconds total out of a 1 minute cycle. At 15 seconds out of 60 (25% of the cycle), the analyst should call it “occasional”. But at 5 lifts per minute, lifting seems “more than occasional”. “Frequencies” really ought to be defined in terms of efforts per minute (or hour, shift), not as a percentage of the cycle or shift.

–          Push, pull and grip forces must be measured to be useful. Reporting cart weight  as a push force is inaccurate and misleading. We’ve seen 500 lb carts that require almost no effort to push, and 100 lb carts that are almost impossible to move. If you’re trying to do a PDA/CDA without a push gauge, you won’t be able to complete a full assessment.

If you are embarking on a PDA/CDA project, do your research! Consider joining us for our September PDA/CDA workshop. Then you can decide whether to create your own template, or purchase our fillable PDF form. If you’d like us to do them for you, give us a call or an email.

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