What do Job Analysis and the Three Little Pigs Have in Common?

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 8, 2022 9:28:46 AM / by Deborah Lechner

What does job analysis and the 3 little pigs have in common?

Once upon a time there were three little pigs whose mother had sent them out into the world to fend for themselves. The first little pig was very lazy. He didn't want to work at all and he built his house out of straw. The second little pig worked a little bit harder, but he was somewhat lazy too and he built his house out of sticks. Then, the two of them sang and danced and played away the rest of the day. The third little pig worked hard all day and built his house with bricks. It was a sturdy house complete with a fine fireplace and chimney. It looked like it could withstand the strongest winds.

The next day, a wolf happened to pass by the lane where the three little pigs lived; and he saw the straw house, and he smelled the pig inside. He thought the pig would make a mighty fine meal and his mouth began to water.

So, he knocked on the door and said: Little Pig, Little Pig let me in. The pig responded: “Not by the hairs of my chinny chin, chin.” Then the wolf said, “I’ll huff and puff and blow your house down.” And sure enough, he blew the flimsy straw house down.

Same song, second verse with the house of sticks. It was not until he came to the house of bricks that his huffing and puffing was to no avail. (Adapted from https://americanliterature.com/childrens-stories/the-three-little-pigs)

So, what does all this have to do with Job Demands Analysis? Everything!

If you have no job analysis or job analysis that is poorly executed (aka a house of straw or sticks) your entire injury prevention program can be legally challenged. With a house of bricks (quality job analysis), you have the rationale and defensibility you need.

How do legal challenges happen?

Pre-hire Physical Abilities Testing: The EEOC and ADA guidelines state that pre-hire testing must be job-specific. Just how specific? Check out these legal cases where the EEOC felt that the test did not adequately represent the job:

  • Each part of the test must directly correlate to critical aspects of the job demands Zamlen v. City of Cleveland (6th 1990)
  • Arbitrarily setting time limits to complete test do not meet standard of business necessity Pietras v. Board of Fire Commissioners (2nd 1999)
  • Passing criteria must truly be the minimum requirement for performance, not simply more is better Lanning v. Southeastern PA Transport Authority ( 3rd 1999)
  • Test can’t be more difficult than job, incumbent testing helps to validate, must apply test results consistently EEOC v. Dial Corp (8th 2006) and we’re talking lift height and number of repetitions.
  • Used pre-employment back assessment to screen and reject applicants it believed would be unable to work as truck drivers. Test requirements could not be correlated to job demands EEOC v. Hirschbach Motor Lines 2018
  • Test required more strength than what was needed for the job EEOC v. Central Refrigerated Services -2015)

How does job analysis support other aspects of injury prevention?

 Objective thorough job analysis affects other aspects of injury prevention too:

Return-to-Work. How do you decide if an injured employee is ready to return to work if you don’t have a detailed description of the job requirements that can be reviewed by the employee’s physician or that can form the basis of a job-specific return to work test?

Transitional Duty. How do you develop safe and effective transitional duty, if there is no detailed description of the physical requirements of work? Can the injured employee return to their previous job or do they need to spend time in a less strenuous job until they can transition back to full duty?

Work Conditioning/Work Simulation Programs. How do the treating clinicians develop job-specific work conditioning and work simulation programs, if there is no detailed description of the physical requirements of work? What exercises will be most effective? Which job simulations should they do?

OSHA Compliant Early Intervention Programs. One of the most important components of an Early Intervention Program is counseling the employee on best work practices to minimize stress on the body. If you don’t know what the job requires, how can you appropriately counsel?

Ergonomic Modification. In order to know what job tasks to modify through ergonomic improvements, you must know the job requirements. It’s hard to change things that aren’t quantified in the first place. Harder still to measure the improvement without adequate quantification.

What constitutes quality job analysis?  

Objective measures versus subjective report. Many job analysts utilize self-report from employees who perform the job. Research has shown that the reliability and validity of self-report of when it comes to the details of weights handled and the frequency or duration of work activities is limited (1-3).

Measuring push/pull forces with force gauge. Inexperienced job analysts might see an employee who is pushing 200 lbs. on a rolling cart and document the pushing requirements of the job as 200 lbs. In reality, the force that is required to push the 200 lbs. is far less because the wheels of the cart reduce the friction and the force that is required to overcome the resistance of the 200 lbs. on the cart. Conversely a 50 lb. box of product on a rough plywood shelf may require significantly more than 50 lbs. of force to slide the product on the shelf due to the friction between the shelf and the box. These examples serve to illustrate that the accurate force requirements of the job must be measured using a force gauge.

Overestimating the duration of the physical requirements of work. This is a mistake that ErgoScience often sees that amateur job analysts make. “Frequent” as defined by the US Department of Labor is an activity that occurs from 1/3 to 2/3 of the workday. Squatting and kneeling, for example, may occur intermittently throughout the day but the total time spent in these positions rarely exceeds 1/3 of the day. Yet we often see job analysis reports that rate squatting or kneeling as “Frequent?”

Why is this important? When the doctor sends the employee back to work with a restriction of “Occasional” squatting and the job requires Frequent squatting…guess what? The employee either is not allowed to return to work or is given a light duty job. Or the job applicant, who is taking a pre-hire Physical Abilities Test, can’t test out at the Frequent level and fails the test, when she’s truly capable of performing the job. If either of these scenarios turn into a legal challenge, guess who’s on the winning end of that challenge?

Use Job Analysis to Make a Brick House!  

Regardless of the type of injury prevention strategies you implement, having high quality, thorough job analysis, performed by experts is crucial to the success and defensibility of your programs. If you don’t have the patience and resources to create a quality job analysis house, you can expect to have the rest of your programs huffed and puffed and blown down. Make a brick house! Choose the right, hard-working experts!

For more information read our injury prevention resource:  View EBook →

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  1. https://americanliterature.com/childrens-stories/the-three-little-pigs
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/243462056_Objective_and_self-report_work_performance_measures_A_comparative_analysis
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4992189/
  4. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40966137

Topics: Workplace Safety, Legal Issues, Risk Management, Workers' Compensation Costs, Job Analysis

Deborah Lechner

Written by Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.