May 05 2016

What is the Difference Between a Job Description and a Functional Job Analysis?

One of the most valuable things an employer can do to protect themselves from unnecessary workers comp injuries is have an accurate, validated functional job analysis for each position within their organization. 

Definitions and Differences- Job Description vs. Functional Job Analysis

A job description is what an employer posts concerning the duties and requirements of a job. This is mainly the domain of the HR department, and as such, the duty statements of the job description are often the template for employee performance reviews.  Job descriptions contain duty statements that describe the work being done in lay-person’s terminology:
·         Utilize a motorized pallet jack to move materials from loading dock to work area.  Must be able to lift up to 40#.
·         Daily responsibilities include documenting the number of client calls made and outcomes. 
·         Must be proficient in word processing and written/spoken English. 

The functional job analysis, also known as a physical demands analysis (PDA), is a much more detailed description of all of the movements (or essential functions) and loads a worker is likely to encounter performing the job.

It will have statements such as:
·         Lift a 40 pound box (12x36x24 inches) between 8 and 10 times per shift from a pallet that is 4 inches off floor to a table that is 36 inches high
·         Ascend and descend 3- 12 inch stairs up to 30 times per shift. 
·         Perform cleaning and maintenance tasks as needed, including reaching, kneeling, stooping, crawling, fingering and feeling. 
·         The physical demands of this job are classified as HEAVY: exert up to 100 pounds of force occasionally, and/or up to 50 pounds of force frequently, and/or up to 20 pounds of force constantly to move objects. 

Functional job analysis or descriptions are useful in matching the worker to the work and are very effective in decreasing the risk of injury and workers’ compensation claims.  A functional job analysis is usually performed by someone outside the company with a strong background in human movement, like a physical therapist or athletic trainer.

Why Perform a Functional Job Description ?

A functional job description comes into play in three primary ways in your employees’ job:
(1) Functional Job Descriptions are the last stage in the hiring process in the form of a post-offer/pre-employment testing and are used as the basis for those tests.
(2) Functional Job Descriptions are used in the returning to work stage if that employee is away from work for any extended period of time (for injury, illness, or other leave of absence), similar use to post-off/pre-employment testing.
(3) Functional Job Descriptions are used to deem positions as "safety sensitive".

The cost of hiring an experienced consultant to perform functional job descriptions is minimal compared to the expenses saved by preventing just one injury claim. For example, a low back strain has a direct cost of about $32,319, and indirect costs of $67,869 based on a 3% profit margin, according to OSHA Safety Pays [JB1]. So, it may make more sense for companies to invest in prevention instead of reaction. 

Several members of our staff are experienced Certified Essential Functions Evaluators. If you’d like more information on how to implement functional job descriptions or pre-employment screenings, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!  




Sandy Greeson

Ergonomic Assessment Specialist, Essential Functions Evaluator, & Certifed Clinical Instructor