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Occupational Requirements Survey

Physical demands

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Physical demands refer to the physical activities required to perform the critical tasks of a job. The assessment is focused on the physical demands of the job - not the physical capacities of the worker. Physical demand refers to the level or duration of physical exertion generally required to perform occupational tasks (sitting, standing, lifting, carrying, reaching, pushing, and pulling).

This document offers a general overview and basic descriptions of the physical demands elements that are collected and published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS).

  • Sitting
    • Sitting is to remain in a seated position. Lying down, including active lying down like a mechanic lying on a dolly to do maintenance under a vehicle, is included in sitting. If workers are able to choose between sitting or standing for a task, that is counted as time spent sitting.

      Pilot sitting in cockpit   Telemarketers sitting at desks  
  • Standing
    • Standing is to remain on one’s feet in an upright position without moving about. Walking is to move about on foot and is included in standing. Time spent in low postures (crawling, crouching, kneeling, or stooping) is also included in standing.

      Standing and/or walking example   Groundskeeper using a weed whacker  
  • Choice of sitting or standing
    • The ability to alternate between sitting and standing is present when a worker has the flexibility to choose between sitting and standing as needed. Jobs that only allow this choice during scheduled breaks, such as a lunch period, would be excluded.

      Workers collaborating in a laboratory  
  • Lifting or carrying
    • Lifting is raising or lowering an object from one level to another. Lifting can include an upward pulling motion. Carrying is to transport an object – usually by holding it in the hands or arms, or wearing it on the body.

      Waitress carrying plates of food   Man carrying boxes in a warehouse   Nurses lifting patient out of bed  
  • Pushing or pulling
    • Pushing is exerting force upon an object so that the object moves away from the origin of the force. Pulling is exerting force upon an object so that the object moves toward the origin of the force. Pushing or pulling may involve use of hands or arms or feet or legs done with one side of the body or both sides.

      Police on bicycles   Nurse pushing patient in wheelchair   Worker pulling cart of boxes  
  • Keyboarding
    • Entering text or data into a computer or other machine by means of a traditional keyboard. Traditional keyboard refers to a panel of keys used as the primary input device on a computer, typographic machine or 10-Key numeric keypad.

      Person using a keyboard and mouse   Typing on a keyboard  
  • Gross manipulation
    • Seizing, holding, grasping, turning, or otherwise working with the hand(s). It is often present when lifting involves the hands. Note: Fingers are involved only to the extent that they are an extension of the hand to hold or operate a tool such as tin snips or scissors.

      Woman holding books   Woman inspecting an item while working in a warehouse   gross manipulation trimming shrubs  
  • Fine manipulation
    • Touching, picking, pinching, or otherwise working primarily with fingers rather than the whole hand or arm as in gross manipulation.

      Technician fixing computers   Lab technician using a pipette   Fine manipulation on touch screen  
  • Foot or 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.

      Forklift operator using a forklift   Woman using a pedal while operating a sewing machine   Musician playing piano  
  • Driving
    • Driving is the operation of a motorized passenger vehicle or other vehicles such as tractor trailers, buses, equipment (for example, forklifts, golf carts, or riding mowers), trains, boats or aircraft.

      Driving example   Worker driving forklift  
  • Reaching overhead
    • Extending the arm(s) with the hand(s) higher than the head and one of these conditions exist: (1) A person bends the elbows, and the angle at the shoulders is about 90 degrees or more, or (2) A person keeps the elbow extended, and the angle at the shoulder is about 120 degrees or more.

      Mechanic working on vehicle overhead   Woman reaching for product on overhead shelf  
  • Reaching at or below shoulder level
    • Reaching at or below the shoulder is present when a worker extends the hand(s) and arm(s) in any direction, straightening the arm(s) and elbow(s) and engaging the shoulder(s), but it does not meet the threshold for reaching overhead. Reaching overhead and reaching at or below the shoulder can be present in the same task.

      Chef cooking over pots  
  • Low postures
    • Crawling

      Moving about on hands and knees or hands and feet.

      Man crawling while installing carpet   Man crawling in a cave  
    • Crouching

      Bending body downward and forward by bending legs and spine.

      Crouching photographer   Man crouching while lowering a jack at the rear of a travel trailer  
    • Kneeling

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

      Woman kneeling mext to a child while reaching for an item on a low shelf   Man kneeling while building a roof  
    • Stooping

      Stooping is bending the body forward and down while bending the spine at the waist 45 degrees or more either over something below waist level or down towards an object on or near the ground.

      A maid stooping  
  • Climbing ramps or stairs
    • Ascending or descending ramps or stairs using feet and legs. Hands and arms may be used for balance (for example, to hold a railing). Note: Climbing stairs into buildings with elevators or ADA-compliant ramps is voluntary and therefore not included. Stairs onto a vehicle or a piece of machinery or equipment are included.

      Worker climbing stairs to airplane   Man carrying a large box up a truck ramp   Nurse assisting patient with walker down the stairs  
  • Climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds
    • Ascending or descending structures like ladders, scaffolding, ropes or poles that require the use of both the upper and lower body to climb.

      Workers climbing scaffolding   Worker climbing on telephone pole   
  • Near vision
    • Clarity of vision at approximately 20 inches or less (that is, working with small objects or reading small print), including use of computers.

      Jeweler examining jewelry   Doctor performing optical procedure on patient   Electrician fixing wires  
  • Far vision
    • 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  
  • 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   Lifeguard on beach  
  • Speaking
    • 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.

      Construction workers speaking   Medical workers speaking   Office worker speaking  
  • Hearing requirements
    • The ability to hear, understand, and distinguish speech or other sounds (for example, machinery alarms, medical codes or alarms). The presence of four hearing requirements are measured:

      • In person speech
      • Telephone
      • Other remote speech
      • Other sounds
      Man talking to a front desk receptionist   People listening through their headsets