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This topic contains 8 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  allisyns 13 years ago.

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    Recently the director of our agency modified the job descriptions of staff to increase to 50 pounds the amount that they would be expected to be able to lift. Are there universal standards for this amount or does it vary from job to job?



    Hello benedlo-

    According to the US Department of Labor, all jobs are classified according to the physical demands of the position. A job that requires a lift of 50 pounds on an occational basis (up to 33% of work shift or approx. once every 30 minutes for an 8-hour shift) is classified as medium. 20 pounds light, etc. In my experience, the job is classified according to these standards and it is not uncommon to have medium-level job (classified by the US Dept of Labor) be classified in the heavy category under a different employer. The physical demands are going to vary positon by position. I hope this helps.

    Allisyn, MPT



    Hi, Allisyn –

    Thank you for your response to the question on occupational weight restrictions. I see a lot of patients with trauma due to excessive physical stress relative to weight demands. Is there also a standard regarding the employee’s gender/height/weight/age or is that no longer standardized due to discrimination laws?

    Anxiously awaiting your response –


    Teri O’Hearn (pronator)


    [private user]

    The problem with weight limits for manual handling is that they fail to take account of the complexity of manual handling operations and the enormous variability between individuals. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations in the UK (in fact an EU wide approach) is to require duty-holders to undertake risk assessments which consider the relevant risk factors under the broad headings of 1) the tasks; 2) the loads; 3) the working environment; 4) individual capability.

    The regulations and HSE guidance on them are available as a priced publication from HSE Books (http://www.hsebooks.co.uk). There is more information, including a number of free publications and reports available on the HSE website (URL below).





    Hello Pronator- great name by the way- I am unaware of any standards regarding age/sex/weight/etc in regards to occupational lifting requirements. I highly doubt there are any governmental or occupational barriers to this- in light of discrimination and equal/fair treatment acts. It is my understanding that any and all decisions for hire are at the discretion of the employer. He/she is responsible for outlining the job and requirements to a new hire, then per business policy may or may not require a pre-employment physical or capacities evaluation.

    Hope this answers your question. -Allisyn



    Is there a specific reason that the director increased the lifting requirements for the job? Do the jobs ACTUALLY require lifting 50#? If not, then the employer is setting themselves up for potential problems in the future.

    Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer can only require that an individual be able to perform the essential functions of the job. If one of those essential functions actually requires being able to lift 50# to perform the function, then it indeed should be listed. On the other hand, if the functions only require the ability to lift objects weighing up to 20#, then the 50# requirement would be arbitrary and capricious, and the employer would be significantly limiting his employment pool by such a requirement.

    Having conducted thousands of detailed essential function job descriptions over the past 15 years, it is my contention that an employer should actually analyze and measure the physical demands of the job. That means actually weighing objects, determining at what heights they are lifted to/from and how far away they are from the body (imagine the difference of lifting 50# next to your body compared to at arms length!), the frequency of the lift, the duration of the lift, any unusual environmental demands, actually measuring push/pull forces, distances pushed/pulled, etc., etc., etc. The final product of this analysis is a legally defensible document quantifying the physical demands and listing the essential functions.

    Here’s a few key questions to ask your director. Is the 50# lifted from the floor? Is it lifted to overhead? Is it lifted while reaching over a barrier, such as unloading a car trunk? Is it lifted once a week, once a day, 250 times a day? I have seen these nebulous job requirements shot down time and time again in the courtroom. At the minimum, take a bathroom scale and a tape measure and measure the actual lift requirements of each job. If you’re well prepared you’re well prepared.



    Allisyn wrote, in part:

    “According to the US Department of Labor, all jobs are classified according to the physical demands of the position. A job that requires a lift of 50 pounds on an occational basis (up to 33% of work shift or approx. once every 30 minutes for an 8-hour shift)”


    The “once every 30 minutes for an 8-hour shift” is incorrect. I addressed this issue at length about a year ago on this list-serv, but before it was in a nice, searchable format like it is now. To summarize my previous post (later expanded and published in the September 2003 “Ergonomics Australia” and “Ergonomics Australia Online” if you’d like to read the detailed account), the Dept. of Labor declines any attempt to attach a numerical frequency to Occasional, Frequent, Constant. They insist that their rating system is based on time – the actual time a particular activity is engaged in in the course of a shift.



    That would be discrimination to base limits on age, height, sex, etc. Post offer employment testing can be done to determine whether or not the potential employee is capable of performing the physical demands of the job. If they are unable, the employer is not required to hire them. Testing must be consistently applied, however, and there cannot be different tests for the same job which assumes the same physical demands. Objectively, you are only looking at can the employee perform the job or not.

    Lisa, PT



    James- of course the Dept of Labor does not list specific time frames for performance of lifting activities on the job- that was not what I was implying. For simplistic purposes (as I describe to patients, “in english” that equates to…) outlining occational lifting as once every 30 minutes is a rough estimate of the frequency required.

    Thank you for the info however, I am interested in reading the published articles on this topic.

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