Social Security separates jobs into groups based on physical requirements: sedentary, light, medium, and heavy. For many individuals, the outcome of a case depends on the number of sedentary jobs available.
This is often an issue in back injury cases where Light work is eliminated, but sedentary jobs are still a possibility. If there are enough of them. If a job can be put in the Light category, it may be eliminated based on physical limitations.
So, here is the question: can a sit down job requiring no more than lifting 10 pounds (typically suggesting Sedentary work) ever be a Light job?
Yes, it can!
Many practitioners may be surprised by this. We have been taught (and we hear over and over) that sedentary work means: lifting no more than 10 pounds occasionally (up to 1/3 of an 8 hour day) or less than 10 pounds frequently (up to 2/3 of an 8 hour day) AND standing or walking no more than 2 hours out of 8.
So how can a job with almost no walking and lifting less than 10 pounds be light?
Due to a “production rate pace” or use of hand or foot controls.
The Selected Characteristics of Occupation defines Light work as:
Light Work involves exerting up to 20 pounds of force occasionally, or up to 10 pounds of force frequently, or a negligible amount of force constantly to move objects. Physical demand requirements are in excess of those for Sedentary Work. Even though the weight lifted may be only a negligible amount, a job/occupation is rated Light Work when it requires: (1) walking or standing to a significant degree; (2) sitting most of the time while pushing or pulling arm or leg controls; or (3) working at a production rate pace while constantly pushing or pulling materials even though the weight of the materials is negligible. (The constant stress and strain of maintaining a production rate pace, especially in an industrial setting, can be and is physically demanding of a worker even though the amount of force exerted is negligible.)
Working at a production pace or constantly pushing or pulling, such as on an assembly line or in an industrial setting, is LIGHT work, not sedentary, even though standing/walking and lifting/carrying are negligible.
The second source for this position is the discussion is the use of hand and foot controls is addressed in SSR 83-10:
A job is also in this category when it involves sitting most of the time but with some pushing and pulling of arm-hand or leg-foot controls, which require greater exertion than in sedentary work; e.g., mattress sewing machine operator, motor-grader operator, and road-roller operator (skilled and semiskilled jobs in these particular instances).
Pushing or pulling on hand or foot controls with greater force than the 10 pound lifting and carrying requirements also put a job into the Light category even it the job is performed while seated. Unlike the SCO which requires “constant” pushing and pulling of materials, SSR 83-10 only requires “some” pushing and pulling of arm and hand controls. This suggests even occasional use of arm and hand controls of more than 10 pounds of force makes a job LIGHT and not sedentary as well.
This provides two arguments for how a sit down job can properly be categorized LIGHT and not sedentary, which can make all the difference in a disability case.