Safety Building Blocks: Ergonomic Risk Assessments, Physical Demands Analyses, & Job Safety Analyses


Ergonomic Risk Assessments (ERAs), Physical Demands Analyses (PDAs), and Job Safety Analyses (JSAs) are three of the most critical and foundational elements within a safety program, serving to inform much of the overall strategy and implementation that can in turn keep your employees safe.

Here is a closer look at these three key components, how they work, and what they look to achieve in reducing injuries throughout the workplace.

Ergonomic Risk Assessment

Ergonomic Risk Assessments start by identifying any ergonomic risk factors present in the work environment, in addition to identifying those hazards’ potential root causes. This information is then used to develop recommendations/controls that will reduce the ergonomic risk.

Controls include engineering, administrative, and/or behavioral/work practice controls that will also improve performance, productivity, and quality (Lean Ergonomics). These are highly visual documents showing correct and incorrect scenarios as well as possible abatements/controls. 

To help illustrate the process, here are some examples of controls for a job where the worker has to lift 50-pound bags of ingredients, cut the bags open, and then dump them into a hopper.

Physical Demands Analysis

The PDA is an accurate, objective, and legally defensible analysis of the physical demands of the essential functions of the job or of the job’s tasks. The PDA is the foundational component of many ergonomic-related services and programs, such as functional job descriptions, return-to-work criteria, job-specific testing, development of best work practices, job coaching, and training camps/worker conditioning programs.

The PDA can serve as the informational basis for many different components within a safety program, including:

  • Assessing changes to the workstation or work process (PDA performed before and after the change/control)
  • Achieving an unbiased, objective job bank based on physical demands level (DOL Category), which can be utilized for restrictive duty
  • Creating a job rotations program
  • Creating job-specific post-offer testing
  • Creating a new-hire “training camp” program or worker conditioning program

If a worker becomes injured, the PDA can also be sent with them to the treating physician so they know the physical requirements of their job. It can also be used as a return-to-work form, wherein the physician can mark “Yes” or “No” on all activities. 

Ideally, an ERA will be conducted prior to creating a PDA. This will allow the client to have time to implement controls and to potentially reduce the physical demands of the job prior to defining them.

If changes are made after the PDA is conducted, the PDA can be updated at any time to reflect the changes to the physical demands of the job. PDAs should be updated every 1-2 years or whenever there is a change to the work environment or work process that may result in a change to the physical requirements of the job.

Job Safety Analysis

JSAs are a process of determining physical, environmental health, and safety-related hazards pertaining to a specific job or task. JSAs, ERAs, and PDAs are interdependent risk management processes that should always be leveraged alongside one another rather than independently.

While Job Safety Analyses’ analytical methods are similar and in some cases identical to those conducted during Physical Demands Analyses, the differences between the two are in both the specific hazards addressed and in the end uses of each document.

JSAs are commonly used to:

  • Quantify the steps of a task or activity
  • Identify existing hazards for elimination
  • Document engineering, administrative, and behavioral controls
  • Train and comply with regulatory requirements for providing a safe and healthful work environment

When implemented together, ERAs, PDAs, and JSA risk assessments can be strategically used to control the cost of risk from date of hire through return to work, to outline all required regulatory health and safety training, to process lean improvements, and to demonstrate employer duty of care above and beyond statutory and legal liability standards.

JSAs provide:

  • A site-specific baseline for all required health and safety training under the OSHAct
  • Identification and control of current and potential hazards
  • PPE certification of effectiveness required under the OSHAct
  • A training resource for underperforming or new employees
  • Control and optimization of job steps to minimize waste and risks
  • A benchmark for incident investigations to determine variations from established standards
  • Evidence of employer duty of care for meeting OSHA, DOT, and MSHA health and safety standards
  • Support for the retention of employees by demonstrating employer concerns for health and safety hazards

JSA uses:


  • Ensure complete and effective JSAs are developed for all production tasks
  • Ensure JSAs are reviewed with new hires and annually thereafter
  • Utilize JSAs in incident investigations and retraining
  • Ensure JSAs are modified if a new step or process is added
  • Ensure SOPs are developed for non-routine tasks that have a high degree of safety risk
  • Ensure effective and efficient new hire training
  • Use JSAs and SOPs when performing job performance evaluations
  • Provide opportunities for learning, mentoring, and growing skills


  • Allows them a voice, chance to mentor leadership, and show what they know
  • Provides assurance they are doing an activity or task to standard
  • Assures employees they are not being put at significant risk without a plan
  • Provides evidence the employer cares about their health and safety

JSA formats:

  1. Simple three-column
  2. Task Steps
  3. Hazards Per Step
  4. Recommendations
  5. Risk-Based
  6. More organizations today are applying the fundamentals of risk management to quantify risks identified for each step. By multiplying both metrics identified for each task/step, the user is provided a risk ranking number to help them focus limited resources in preventing or controlling hazards identified during the JSA process.


Exposure Frequency/Probability Rating (1-5)

  1. Improbable – Annual-Emergency Only, Almost impossible, Only occur under extreme circumstances.
  2. Low – Bi-Annual, Unlikely, Very unusual for the event to occur.
  3. Medium – Monthly, Even chance, 50/50 chance the event could occur.
  4. High – Weekly, Probable, Event will occur and not a surprise if did.
  5. Extreme – Daily, Certain to occur at some time in the future.


Severity/Consequence Rating (1-5)

  1. Insignificant – Minor Irritation, No medical intervention, First Aid Only, EI Case/Non-recordable and no lost time.
  2. Low – Minor soft tissue strain, cut, bruising, or abrasion may require medical intervention, 1st-degree burn.
  3. Medium – Broken Bone, serious soft tissue strain or tear, 2nd-degree burn, serious illness, moderate soft tissue strain, major cut or abrasion recordable injury with LT.
  4. High – Amputation, 3rd-degree burn, chronic illness, permanently disabling injury.
  5. Extreme – Fatality


Ace your next OSHA inspection with help from Fit For Work

If your business is in need of a safety compliance easy button, Fit For Work can help. We partner with organizations like yours all across the country to find the gaps, get you to compliance, and make sure you stay there. Whether you’re in need of an Ergonomic Risk Assessment, a Physical Demands Analysis, or expert-led OSHA training, we have the resources and expertise needed to lead you through the process from start to finish.

Contact us today  begin identifying and mitigating hazards to ensure your business is more than ready for your next inspection.


fit for work podcast

Work Injury Prevention