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Occupational Requirements Survey

Physical Demands

Physical Demands data elements provide a systematic way of describing the physical activities that an occupation requires of a worker. The assessment of these elements is focused primarily on the physical demands of the job - not the physical capacities of the worker. Physical Demand refers to the level and/or duration of physical exertion generally required to perform occupational tasks (sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, reaching, pushing, and pulling).

This document offers a general overview and basic descriptions of the Physical Demands elements that are collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS). These definitions are intended to provide information only and are not intended to be used during the course of data collection.

Physical demands covered:


Alternate Sit/Stand or Walk at Will

The ability to alternate between sitting and standing is present when a worker has the flexibility to choose between sitting or standing as needed when this need cannot be accommodated by scheduled breaks and/or lunch period.

Workers in laboratory examining specimen jar

Climbing Ramps/Stairs

Ascending or descending ramps and/or stairs using feet and legs. Hands and arms may be used for balance (e.g., to hold a railing).

Note: Stairs involved in commute/getting into building are excluded if work is always performed in one building. Stairs onto a vehicle or a piece of machinery/equipment are included.

Worker climbing steps to planeWorker using ramp to place box on truckWorker assisting patient on stairs

Climbing Ladders/Ropes/Scaffolding

Ascending or descending ladders, scaffolding, ropes, poles and the like using feet/legs and/or hands/arms.

Worker ascending ladder to bookshelfPerson climbing ropeWorkers on tower scaffoldingWorker climbing pole

Communicating Verbally

Expressing or exchanging ideas by means of the spoken word to impart oral information to clients or the public and to convey detailed spoken instructions to other workers accurately, loudly, or quickly.

Workers talking to hospital patientWorker making a presentationConstruction workers discussing site plans


Moving about on hands and knees or hands and feet.

Worker installing carpetingMan in cave crawling


Bending body downward and forward by bending legs and spine.

Woman crouching taking a pictureTeacher crouching to work with young studentMan bending down to work on vehicle

Far Visual Acuity

Clarity of vision at 20 feet or more. This is not just the ability to see a person or object, but the ability to recognize features as well.

Bus driver operating busWorkers looking at construction site

Fine Manipulation

Picking, pinching, or otherwise working primarily with fingers rather than the whole hand or arm as in gross manipulation.

Worker repairing electronic equipmentWorker using sound board
Worker looking through filesLaboratory worker filling specimen containers

Foot/Leg Controls

Use of one or both feet or legs to move controls on machinery or equipment. Controls include, but are not limited to, pedals, buttons, levers, and cranks.

Worker using forklift to move palletsWorker sewingMan playing piano

Gross Manipulation

Seizing, holding, grasping, turning, or otherwise working with hand(s). Note: Fingers are involved only to the extent that they are an extension of the hand.

Worker shelving booksWorker packing boxPerson pruning bushes

Hearing Requirements

The ability to hear, understand, and distinguish speech and/or other sounds (e.g., machinery alarms, medical codes/alarms). A yes or no answer is captured for each of the five hearing requirements listed:

  • One-on-one (in person)
  • Group or conference (in person)
  • Telephone
  • Other sounds
  • Passing of hearing test required
Conversation at reception deskWorkers listening to headsetsInstructor taking questions in class


Entering text or data into a computer or other machine by means of a keyboard. Devices include traditional keyboard, 10 key pad, touch screen and other.

Person at computerPerson using calculatorPerson using touch screen


Bending legs at knees to come to rest on knee(s).

Women bending to work with childWorker bending to assess car damageWorking bending to hammer nail


Lifting is to raise or lower an object from one level to another (includes upward pulling). Carrying is to transport an object – usually by holding it in the hands or arms, but may occur on the shoulder.

Waitress carrying platesMan carrying boxesHospital workers moving patient

Near Visual Acuity

Clarity of vision at approximately 20 inches or less (i.e., working with small objects or reading small print), including use of computers.

Man using magnifier to examine jewelryHealth care worker examining patientWorker repairing electrical circuits

Peripheral Vision

Observing an area that can be seen up and down or to right or left while eyes are fixed on a given point.

Soccer players in actionLifeguard on dutyInstructor taking questions in class


Pushing/pulling may involve use of hands/arms, feet/legs, and/or feet only done with one side of the body or both sides.

Pushing - Exerting force upon an object so that the object moves away from the force

Pulling - Exerting force upon an object so that the object moves toward the force

Police patrolling on bicycleWorkers transporting patients in hallWorker pulling pallet on cart

Reaching At/Below Shoulder Level

Extending hand and arms from 0 up to 150 degrees in a vertical arc. Reaching requires the straightening and extension of the arm and elbow and the engagement of the shoulder. The elbow does not need to be locked at any time and the arm does not need to remain in a continuously straight position.

Chef stirring a potWorker drilling hole in ceiling

Reaching Overhead

Extending hands and arms in a 150 to 180 degrees vertical arc. Reaching requires the straightening and extension of the arm and elbow and the engagement of the shoulder. The elbow does not need to be locked at any time and the arm does not need to remain in a continuously straight position.

Worker reaching to repair car on liftWoman reaching for package on shelf


Remaining in a seated position.

Airline pilots in cockpitWorkers sitting at computer terminals


Standing is to remain on one's feet in an upright position at a workstation without moving about. Walking is to move about on foot.

Worker shelving booksWorkers cutting plants near road


Bending the body downward and forward by bending the spine at the waist - requiring full use of the lower extremities and back muscles.

Woman bending down at filing drawWorking bending to assist young studentMan working under hood of car


Last Modified Date: July 10, 2015