Every job is unique, and so is every worker. The myriad possible variations that exist between worker ability and the demands of the job can often lead to workplace injuries, and can make it difficult to determine whether or not an injured worker can return to work.
In an attempt to close the gap between worker ability and the task at hand, clinicians investigate functional ability by asking questions such as how much can the worker lift? How often? And how high? But unless the clinician knows the details of the job, the patient's objective ability only results in a best-guess as to whether or not the worker can perform the job functions safely and effectively.
Just over 15 years ago, Jonathan Reynolds, PhD, PT, decided to develop software that could help clinicians gather this other half of the workplace equation.
"I wanted to design software that would give FCE evaluators a quick and easy way to go out to the job site, gather data about the job, and go back to the clinic with the information they need to create a comprehensive, quality rehab plan," says Reynolds. In 1998, Reynolds approached JTECH Medical with the idea, and he worked with our programmers to design the software. The final product was JobSite, which was eventually followed by its current iteration, JobSite 2. Since his initial development of the software, Reynolds has gone on to earn his PhD and founded Reynolds Rehab, where he continues to perform job site analyses using the software he developed. And while bolstering Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCEs) may have been what gave Reynolds the idea for JobSite, the goal was to develop a tool for anyone who performed job site analyses. "Evaluating a job site may be done for a number of different reasons, but they are usually initiated for a medical or legal reason," says Reynolds. "Attorneys and judges may want to know the demands of a job; PTs and OTs can use job details to design rehab programs that better simulate a patient's actual daily activities; Workers' Compensation case managers use them to better evaluate claims; and a company's human resources department can use them to set baseline requirements for job listings. For each of these purposes, the more detailed the report, the better."
This belief is at the core of the JobSite software, which was designed to walk an evaluator through the job site analysis, ensuring that no important information is missed.
"One of the most frustrating aspects of job site analysis is when you've just returned from gathering information about a job, only to find that you forgot to measure one key aspect," says Reynolds. "A good job site analysis is comprehensive, involving many steps, so it's easy to forget one. For example, you recorded how much the worker needs to lift, how often, and how far, but you realize that you forgot to record the starting and ending heights of the lift. The software guarantees that, upon completing an analysis, you will have all the job details you need."
But much of the lack of detail is not due to the evaluator simply forgetting a component—it's often due to a lack of detail gathering altogether. And without a high level of detail, the job site analysis is simply not accurate.
"95% of job site analyses lack much of the necessary detail," says Reynolds. "It's a common mistake to simply list that the worker has to lift 50lbs on an occasional basis, and that's it. This analysis leaves a lot of questions unanswered: Where are they lifting from, and where are they lifting to? How many times are they lifting per hour? What type of handles are they using, if any? These are important details that can greatly affect whether or not a worker can safely perform the job."
Upon gathering the information, it's important to be able to translate it into a usable report— another feature of the JobSite 2 software that Reynolds highlights. Indeed, the report you generate is often the avenue by which you communicate with patients, colleagues, or third parties about the job requirements and treatment plans, so it needs to be useful and easily understood. "After you perform a job site analysis, it's important to express the results in a meaningful way," says Reynolds. "These results become the basis for rehab programs, or your professional opinion about a worker's ability to perform a job; therefore, a high level of detail is essential. Detailed, easy-to-read reports can even become a marketing tool for a practice. I've received referrals based solely on someone having seen my reports."
In fact, Reynolds cites job site analyses as the source of most of his Workers' Compensation referrals. After meeting with the human resources representative or the safety manager of a factory, Reynolds often ends up providing their company with other services.
"A Workers' Compensation adjuster will ask me to perform a job site analysis, and then when I'm at the job site, the company representative will ask me if I perform FCEs, or if I do ergonomic analysis," says Reynolds.
Not only do job site analyses create a bridge with industry, they can also serve as a core component of the other useful services that clinics can offer to employers, such as post-offer screenings, FCEs, and ergonomic analysis.
"When we go to a company to perform ergonomic analysis, we can use the JobSite 2 software to identify potential risk areas," says Reynolds. "Companies will report a spike in injuries for a particular group of employees (nurses, physicians, warehouse workers, etc.), and we'll gather the relevant information about the job. Then, we can use ergonomic evaluation tools, such as the NIOSH lift equation or the cumulative trauma disorder evaluation tool to not only guide the ergonomic abatement efforts, but to also predict what changes could be effected before the abatement is implemented. This information is very useful for industrial engineers who design and set up many industrial work stations."
Whether a clinic is looking to bolster their FCEs and post-offer screenings, or they are seeking a new source of revenue, or they are looking for a service to help create ties with industry, job site analysis is a versatile and powerful tool. And while beginning to offer job site evaluations can appear daunting, Reynolds advises clinicians looking to add this service to start slowly, practicing the analysis on the different job types they have around their office.
"As with anything, practice is the best way to improve," says Reynolds. "Get used to taking the measurements and producing detailed, high quality reports by performing job site analyses on colleagues. And the JobSite 2 software gives you a sort of unfair advantage by guiding you through all the steps of the analysis, calculating time-consuming equations, and quickly producing a detailed report. In other words, it makes your job easier, and it makes you look good doing it."
For more information about Jonathan Reynolds, please visit his website at reynoldsrehabpt.com.