An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but do the benefits of a program to reduce workplace injuries exceed the expense? The simple answer is yes, an effective injury preventive strategy can do just that. Reducing the number of injuries that happen in your workplace reduces the costs associated with them. While that sounds like a solid, common-sense statement, does it work out that way in the real world? According to research done by the University of Illinois at Chicago, it does indeed.
The goal of the study was to determine whether the testing program would prove cost-effective, as determined by evaluating those benefits and cost savings in relation to costs of the program itself.
The post offer physical abilities testing program in question was jointly developed by the Occupational and Physical Therapy Departments of the University of Illinois at Chicago. It was used to test all potential new hires for physical plant operations. Each job classification within the realm of physical plant operations was subjected to a job analysis, performed by a trained occupational or physical therapist, to identify essential job tasks and critical physical demands of each position in that workplace. Based on the findings of the job analyses, short physical ability screenings were developed for more than 18 separate job classifications. These screenings consisted of 5 to 7 tasks, each with a specific pass or fail criteria. Failure of any one item in the test could result in withdrawal of the conditional employment offer extended to each candidate.
While potential new hires for all of these classifications were screened, three jobs accounted for 87 percent of all screens completed during the three years following implementation of physical abilities testing. These positions were Building Service Worker, Driver and Driver Helper. The purpose of the screening program was to reduce injury frequency and severity, as well as the associated workers' compensation costs. So how did the test program measure up to those goals?
Very well, according to study authors. During the three-year period after program implementation, 712 post offer physical abilities screens were performed, and more than 22 percent of candidates were screened out due to test results indicating they were not physically capable of meeting the physical demands of the positions for which they had applied. Injury rates fell dramatically over the three year observation period, down 18.5 percent as compared to the three-year period prior to the implementation of post offer screening, results that show the program to be very effective at preventing workplace injuries. The program performed very well in meeting its goal of reducing workers compensation costs as well. Total and mean costs associated with workplace injuries dropped sharply, with total per case costs declining by 79 percent and mean costs decreasing by 51 percent. Cost savings across the 3-year study period amounted to $18 per dollar spent on the screening program.
This research is just one study among many that show that a well designed and properly implemented physical abilities testing offers an exceptional ROI, producing very effective results in preventing workplace injuries and reducing the severity of injuries when they do occur. These reductions work to significantly reduce workers' compensation costs, as well as the many indirect costs of workplace injury like lost work time and decreased productivity.
So, do the benefits of applying a preventive strategy to workplace injuries in the form of pre employment physical abilities testing exceed the expense? An 18:1 ROI is a pretty good answer.