Work Bench helps companies meet disability guidelines

July 26, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

WESTMINSTER -- Marada Industries Inc. needed expert help to comply with new federal laws that prohibit job discrimination against disabled workers.

Rewriting job descriptions and figuring out what changes are needed to make certain jobs accessible is a time-consuming process, said Bryon J. Joganich, safety coordinator for the auto parts maker.

The company hired Work Bench to help. Work Bench, a year-old company in the Air Business Park, provides physical therapy and retraining for injured workers.

Its staff also has been trained in how to help companies comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, said Pamela A. Higgs, program coordinator.

The law, which takes effect today for firms with 25 or more employees, says employers cannot discriminate against qualified workers with physical or mental disabilities. Companies with 15 to 24 employees must comply by July 26, 1994.

The law says companies must make "reasonable accommodations" to allow disabled people to work at a job they're qualified for unless the accommodations would place "an undue burden" on the employers.

At Marada, Work Bench employees drew up job analyses for certain jobs by watching Marada workers perform their tasks for several hours, said Mrs. Higgs, a physical therapist.

"Work Bench has the expertise to go out and analyze the job and tell you the essential functions of the job," Mr. Joganich said.

"Companies like Work Bench are very helpful. But it's not inexpensive," he added.

The average cost for the analysis is $125 to $200 per hour, and it takes four to six hours to do the work for each job, Mrs. Higgs said.

Job descriptions that had been a few paragraphs long now are 10-page analyses because they include a detailed description of the workers' routines -- how far they walk, what objects they lift and how much the objects weigh, for example, she said.

The analyses also include psychological, environmental and -Z educational factors, such as whether the job is stressful or is in a noisy place, Mrs. Higgs said.

Work Bench then made recommendations to Marada about jobs that could be done by workers with sight or hearing impairments or other disabilities, she said.

Work Bench also will assess a company's physical plant and recommend changes in entrances and exits, bathrooms, break rooms, evacuation routes and locations of water fountains.

The company also gives two-hour "sensitivity training" sessions to improve relations between employees and to help prevent their discriminating against others through actions and attitudes.

A worker might not realize he is offending a person with a disfigured face by not looking the person in the eye, Mrs. Higgs said. Another worker might be trying to help a co-worker who uses crutches by offering to put the crutches out of the way, not realizing that the crutches need to be handy, she said.

The training sessions use role-playing to help make workers more aware of how to handle situations like these, she said.

Work Bench is a sister corporation to Chesapeake Assessment and Treatment Center, an outpatient rehabilitation facility here.

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