Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Re-Definition of Light and Sedentary Work

The Occupational Requirements Survey, as the core replacement for the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, is well underway.  The Handbook of Methods describes the process and what the data actually means.  For a list of the work activities measured, see the Collection Manual.  

Fundamental to the structure of Social Security's medical-vocational guidelines is the classification of the exertional demands of work.  SSA classifies the exertional demands of work by regulation, 20 CFR §§  404.1567, 416.967.  Those definitions correspond the the exertional demands of work described in the DOT.  The ORS defines non-sedentary ranges of work:

Footnote 1 applies to the constant use of force on a negligible weight as "anything less than 1 pound."  

The ORS defines sedentary by exclusion:  none of the lifting/carrying criteria are met and standing/walking is less than or equal to one-third of the workday.  If none of the lifting/carrying requirements are met but standing/walking is greater than one-third of the workday, the work is light.  

The first definition to change pertains to light work.  The ORS expands the definition of light work by defining negligible weight.  A negligible weight is less than a pound.  Work that requires constant force applied to less than one pound requires light exertion.  The second change is more profound:  light work has a maximum lift/carry of 25 pounds occasionally or seldom.  These two changes expand the reach of the light work definition.  

The definition of sedentary work changes subtly.  Many SSA adjudicators use rough definitions of up to 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently.  That working definition to does restrict itself to sedentary work under the 2019 ORS definition of sedentary work.  Frequent use of force on a negligible weight is now restricted to less than one pound.  The standing/walking ceiling for sedentary work remains at occasional or one-third of the workday.  The definition of negligible weight as applied to frequent lifting/carrying and the exclusion of any constant use of force narrows the reach of the sedentary work definition.  

The number of unskilled sedentary jobs has decreased by definition.  Considering the automation and export of unskilled production work overseas, the number of sedentary unskilled work has shrunk.  The number of unskilled light jobs has increased by definition encroaching on both sedentary and light ranges under the DOT/regulations.  The clarity that frequent lifting/carrying of 11 pounds or constant lifting/carrying of 1+ pounds as requiring classification as medium work does take back some of the job numbers turf.  

My expectation is that unskilled sedentary production work is non-existent in any significant numbers.  The clarification of what constitutes a negligible weight and defining frequent lift/carry of 11 pounds as medium will cause some work to get re-classified as medium, not light.  

Disregarding skill level, 27.4% of the jobs in the national economy require sedentary exertion and 33.4% require light exertion. Workers engage in medium work in 28.4% of jobs.  Workers engage in unskilled work in 33.6% of jobs.  How the skill and exertion levels interact is not stated by the ORS.  And I will not ask a vocational expert or witness at a hearing -- they don't know.  

Get all your data from the ORS, O*NET, OOH, OES, DOT, and SCO at www.occucollect.com.  


Suggested Citation:

Lawrence Rohlfing, A Re-Definition of Light and Sedentary Work, California Social Security Attorney (January 12, 2021) https://californiasocialsecurityattorney.blogspot.com/2021/01/a-re-definition-of-light-and-sedentary.html

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