With musculoskeletal injuries contributing to the bulk of workplace injuries in New Zealand last financial year, all organisations need to consider employing Functional Job Descriptions (FJDs) to both assess the potential risk of harm to prospective applicants and to ensure better injury management outcomes for their workforce.

The concept of a Functional Job Description is not new: they have been employed in various guises both here and in Australia over the past 20 years. In short, FJDs profile the ergonomic and cognitive requirements of a job role. They’re developed by clinical professionals using real-world objective data, ensuring sound reasoning and risk methodology is incorporated into their construction.

FJDs identify the risk of injury through mapping tasks associated with the role and then flagging functions which may be categorised as “high risk”. For example, organisations should consider whether the role involves heavy lifting, repetitive tasks or potential cognitive loads, stressors, and psychological impacts.

As opposed to a generic medical assessment of a role, a clinician conducting the pre-employment medical with an FJD to hand now has a full outline of the position the candidate is being assessed for. The medical assessment can then be tailored against the FJD to ensure that the prospective candidate is the best fit for the role.

But this is not their only function - a well constructed FJD is essential to ensure effective return to work outcomes for workers. After all, it seems bizarre that business expects an independent GP to outline suitable duties or even suitable movements, for an injured worker without any understanding of what the worker does! A FJD gives a GP an understanding of the job role, enabling them to comfortably assign suitable duties for injured workers. By taking out a lot of the guesswork, it then results in better return to work outcomes for the injured worker and allows a tailored program of rehabilitation to ensure an optimal outcome.

The icing on the cake though is the way FJDs can map all job roles in a business. It allows for a picture to be drawn, highlighting high-risk manual tasks across your business and cross-referencing these with injury reports. In most cases the two will align and then further work can be done to either eliminate those tasks or put mitigations in place to reduce the impact on workers. The final result? A reduction in manual tasking injuries by not exposing workers to previously unknown risk in your business.

Is it time for your business to look at Functional Job Descriptions for your workforce?

Our Risk Advisory team works with businesses to achieve Occupational Health and Safety Success. Read more about our work here.

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