How to Create Physical Requirements Sheets for Every Position in Your Company

December 29, 2022
How to Create Physical Requirements Sheets for Every Position in Your Company

No matter how intensive or sedentary the job is, there are physical requirements for every role in your organization. Employee's physical and mental well-being can be impacted by meeting the demands of the position if they're:

  • Unaware
  • Unprepared
  • Unfit

Physical (or Occupational) Demand Sheets reflect the bodily and mental capacity necessary to perform the position's essential functions. They do not assess the capability of individual workers but rather outline the role's needs. Concise, current physical requirements sheets tell applicants what is needed to execute critical job functions. They help businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by outlining, in advance, what demands will be placed on the employee. These sheets may simply inform or may open a dialog about reasonable accommodations for the position. To comply with the ADA, these forms should only include the requirements essential to the performance of the job. Physical demands for non-essential duties should not be included.

Creating a physical requirements sheet

A best practice is to prepare a form for each position, or each category of roles, within the company. Use these as an attachment to the job descriptions you provide to potential new hires. Let the candidate know the position's requirements, and you can discuss any requests they have for accommodation.

The form can be a written list or developed as a checklist. Solicit the help of current employees and managers to cover all aspects of the demands. Some areas on your form will not apply to all jobs. Unique demands may not be a part of your standard checklist but can be included in an 'other' section. Start with the basics, and build your form or worksheet from there. Areas to include in a physical/occupational requirements sheet should be broken down into three categories: physical, environmental, and cognitive requirements.

Physical requirements

Include the task and any details needed to understand the requirement. You may add the length of time standing, sitting, or walking; or the maximum weight of materials to be lifted, carried, or moved. For some tasks, like fine or gross motor skills, outline what the assignment entails. Gross motor skills may be defined as the ability to grasp, hold, or turn large objects. Fine motor skills may include the ability to touch, pinch or pick primarily with fingers. Provide as much information as possible in each category to clearly outline the demands that will be made on a routine basis.

Physical demands

  • Alternating between standing and sitting
  • Climbing stairs, ladders, scaffolding, or ramps
  • Crawling
  • Crouching/stooping
  • Driving
  • Far visual acuity
  • Fine motor manipulation
  • Gross motor manipulation
  • Hearing
  • Keyboarding
  • Kneeling
  • Lifting/Carrying
  • Moving objects
  • Near visual acuity
  • Peripheral visual acuity
  • Pushing or pulling
  • Reaching overhead or below
  • Repetitive task performance
  • Sitting
  • Speaking
  • Standing
  • Using foot or leg controls
  • Walking

Physical requirements include all the demands on the body of the worker. It may seem counter-intuitive to include seemingly benign tasks, like sitting. But for someone with a back injury, sitting for long periods of time can be challenging. There may be an opportunity for making an accommodation here by providing the employee with a desk or desk accessory that allows the employee to work in either a sitting or standing position.

Ideas for physical demand accommodations

Other tasks, like lifting, carrying, or moving objects, should be very specific. What is the maximum weight requirement: does the employee lift the object from a standing, reaching, or crouching position? Moving objects to overhead locations may be limiting for persons in a wheelchair or with problems reaching above their shoulders. You can make an accommodation here that allows the worker to modify their activities to objects within their reach or arm span. Keyboarding is another task that may seem innocuous but can be challenging for some workers. Accommodations may include voice-to-text software that allows the worker to alternate between keystrokes and voice commands when necessary or use voice activation exclusively. Repetitive stress tasks can include assembly line work, where the staff member performs the same task—whether physically demanding or not—over and over. These may be challenging for some workers, and accommodations might have to be highly specific. An example might be workers that rotate through different types of repetitive tasks during their shifts to avoid the physical demands of each. Hearing impairments can often easily be accommodated with low- to no-cost equipment or technology. For visual acuity, some tasks require near vision. These may be fine detail work, like inserting small parts into components. Include distances necessary to identify and perform the function. Others may require far vision ability, like recognizing safety hazards. Again, include the distance essential to perform the task effectively. Driving or closed-circuit camera monitoring may require peripheral acuity. In many cases, assistive eyewear may be a reasonable accommodation to complete the task.

Environmental requirements

Environmental demands are exposure to environmental factors that stress or pressure the worker. Include the length of exposure, details on what types of conditions will be encountered, and what, if any, personal protective equipment is routinely used to mitigate risk.

Environmental demands

  • Exposure to air/water pollution
  • Extreme temperature changes
  • Frequent changes into/out of personal protection equipment
  • Intense heat exposure
  • Noisy/loud environments
  • Penetrating cold exposure
  • Severe weather exposure

For many employees, the worksite is not an indoor or temperature-controlled space. These include exposure to the elements, which can be extreme. Employees who work outdoors, perform work in customers' homes or premises, and even staff members who work in kiosks or pop-up shops can be at the mercy of Mother Nature. These factors can be limiting for some staff members. Make accommodations based on the employees' needs in cases that limit exposure to extreme conditions. Some workers must quickly change into or out of personal protective equipment independently for their own safety and that of others. There may be types of PPE that can be used for workers who request an accommodation to assist with environmental demands.

Cognitive requirements

Cognitive demands include the ability to perform tasks, often in distractive conditions. Include details about the required function and the conditions for executing them.

Cognitive demands

  • Executes tasks independently
  • Learns and memorizes tasks
  • Maintains concentration/focus on tasks
  • Performs tasks in small or restrictive spaces
  • Works in or with large crowds

Learning and memorizing tasks can be challenging for some potential hires, but many outreach groups can help. They may offer off- or on-site training for specific positions or categories of jobs in your company. Work with local agencies that support people with disabilities to find out how they can help with initial and supplemental training. For some workers, large crowds or small spaces are difficult. Here you may be able to accommodate them with location changes or adjustments. For workers who require quiet to maintain focus, a simple, low-cost accommodation could be noise-canceling headphones.

When to offer a physical requirement sheet

To provide potential new hires with as much information as possible, when you post available positions, either attach the most current physical requirement sheet to the posting or include a link directing job searchers to find it on your website. Including these sheets can send the message that your organization supports diversity. These can open the door to requests for a reasonable accommodation. In many cases, persons with a disability have existing and effective equipment and solutions. When posting positions, use affirmative language that defines the task, not the person, when describing physical, environmental, or cognitive requirements. Don't use 'must be able to lift, carry and move 50 pounds.' Instead, use 'routinely lifts, carries and moves  materials weighing 50 pounds.' As with all job postings and descriptions, it's about the work, not the worker.

Physical requirements sheets show you value those who work for you

It's a best practice to provide a copy of the job description to candidates you schedule to interview before you meet. They can better discuss the job and their qualifications if they've had a chance to review specific information about the job before the interview.

Attach the physical requirements sheet, as well, so they can get a complete picture of the work and working environment. During the interview process, ask the candidate if they've reviewed the sheet and if they can perform the essential functions of the position with or without an accommodation. For existing employees who may become ill, injured, or disabled during their tenure, physical requirements sheets provide guidance on how the company can accommodate the staff member. They could suggest light or limited duties; reassignment; or tools or equipment that can maintain the employee until they have recovered. In the event of a permanent disability, they can inform how the company can accommodate the worker long-term. Easily create physical requirements sheets to provide a detailed overview of what demands the employee will experience. They may also provide an affirmative defense in the event of a claim of discrimination under the ADA. Ask employees or managers to take a few moments to check boxes in a template or create a format that works for your company. In either case, the sheet will serve and protect potential hires, existing employees, and the business.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

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