Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (Psychology)


Faculty of Social Sciences


Current methodological frameworks for the development of a legally and scientifically defensible physical employment standard (PES), relies on the conduct of an efficacious job task analysis (JTA). However, as different JTA methodologies have received little examination in relation to their comparative accuracy and utility, no best practice methodology has been identified in the context of physically demanding occupations (PDO). Subjective methodologies in particular, including surveys and focus groups (FGs) may be underutilized in their ability to characterise physically demanding tasks and may provide a resource efficient alternative to ‘gold standard’ objective, observational methodologies. The primary aim of this thesis was therefore, to inform the identification of a JTA best practice methodology in the context of a PES by validating subjective methodologies and their ability to accurately describe physical job task parameters. This is accomplished in a series of three papers.

Chapter 2 (Paper 1) provides a systematic review of all existing JTA methodologies conducted within PDOs, and identifies common themes and methodological weakness relating to the psychometric properties of these studies. Results indicate that the majority of studies lacked explicit checks for reliability, validity and bias, highlighting the need for research into the comparative efficacy of different JTA methodologies. From these data a mixed method JTA is proposed that uses the comparative strengths and weakness of both subjective and objective methodologies.

Chapter 3 (Paper 2) provides further examination of subjective JTA methods through an examination of systematic bias that may be innate in these methods. This was accomplished through a survey conducted on a sample of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) volunteers which examined the effects of demographic and job profile characteristics on descriptions of physically demanding job tasks. Results showed no evidence of bias resulting from participant characteristics; however self-serving bias may have been present in which participants that were more actively involved in a task had an inflated perception of that task’s importance. These results have important implications for the identification of bias in commonly used JTA methods and the integration of subjective methods in the development of PESs.

Using data from the same population, Chapter 4 (Paper 3) provides direct comparison of three commonly used JTA techniques, surveys, FGs and task simulations, in their relative ability to accurately describe and rank tasks by their identifying characteristics. Overall, FGs showed a tendency to overestimate ratings of importance and physical effort, but were able to accurately predict vertical and horizontal distance when compared to task-simulation data. By comparison surveys were able to provide similar rankings and estimates of physical effort to task simulation data. From these results a three stage JTA methodology is recommended by which surveys then FGs are used to reduce the reliance on expensive physical demands analyses.

This thesis concludes with a summary of the key findings, consideration of research limitations, and discussion of implications for future research and recommended PES development practices, Chapter 5. Overall, the findings of this thesis address important gaps in literature and have the potential to make significant contributions to the field of organisational psychology and PES development by helping to identify methodological best practice.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.