Performing Pre-Hire Physical Ability Testing is not science fiction

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 24, 2018 8:00:00 AM / by Erin Norton

If you’re not familiar with the world of pre-hire testing, it may seem a bit surreal…You may feel like you’re traveling through another dimension with your next stop, the PAT  Zone!

But consider the story of Average Joe, physical therapist, on a quiet street, in a quiet town.  Normally in his clinic in the safe zone of treating patients, in just a moment Joe will walk through the doors of ABC Distributing Company.  A company whose workers have been injured again and again.  He can’t take them back in time, but he can take them…through the PAT Zone. 

Let’s look at how Average Joe, PT helped a large employer client get a handle on its on-the-job injury problem.   

Picture2Joe has a relationship with a national distribution company, ABC Distributors.   

Despite having implemented numerous safety measures, ABC continues to experience musculoskeletal injuries among its warehouse workers and delivery drivers.  To help reduce rising workers’ compensation expenses, ABC decided to implement a pre-hire/post-offer Physical Abilities Testing (PAT) program for these positions – and they asked Joe to help them.

Prior to getting started, ABC provided Joe with job descriptions for their two positions.  While the job descriptions provided some useful information, they did not contain the level of detail required to accurately assess the physical requirements of the jobs. Having previously completed the ErgoScience QJDA (Quantitative Job Demands Analysis course) Joe knew that to create an objective and legally defensible pre-hire/post-offer PAT he needed hard data: objective measurement of the exact weights, forces, distances and repetitions required to do the job.  When Joe described the additional information that he needed, the employer decided to bring him to conduct a formal job analysis.

Picture3Scene 1- Quantify the physical demands of the job.   As his first step, Joe interviewed the supervisors to create a comprehensive list of all essential job tasks.   He then observed & videotaped as the warehouse workers pulled inventory from shelves, stacked product on pallets and pushed them to the loading docks.  He also measured the heights of each lift, the weight of each product and the forces and distances required for pushing and pulling.  Joe even rode along with the delivery drivers so he could analyze how much force it took to get a dolly full of goods up the steps into businesses, how many times the driver had to climb into and out of the truck, and the time it took to complete each task.

Once the onsite work was done, Joe reviewed the videotape, entered data into the ErgoScience QJDA software and then created a report with a single click of his mouse.  The standardized, quantitative process underlying QJDA meant Joe did not have to rely on guesswork or subjective impressions to complete his report. 

Picture4Scene 2- Applications for the QJDA report. Joe’s observations during his onsite visit yielded more than just data. He was also able to recommend some simple but powerful ergonomic changes for the jobs.  With just a few minor changes, ABC was able to reduce the physical demands of the job, making the warehouse worker position safer and less stressful. 

With Joe’s help, ABC used the QJDA reports to create ADA and EEOC compliant job descriptions for each position.  Joe then used the QJDA reports to develop pre-hire/post-offer Physical Abilities Test (PATs) for the warehouse worker and delivery driver positions. ABC uses those same reports to help physicians treating injured workers understand the actual physical demands of their patients’ jobs.   

Picture5Scene 3- Test Development.  Armed with data from the QJDA report, Joe easily identified the six most challenging physical requirements of the job: below waist lift, above waist lift, push, pull, stooping and squatting.  Joe then established the minimum passing criteria for each task:  lifting boxes weighing 50 pounds, pushing pallets with 85 pounds of force and squatting and stooping “Occasionally” (up to 1/3 of the day) to secure boxes on the pallet.  To make sure he was on the right track, Joe contacted ErgoScience for a quick review.

After a short conversation and a few minor changes, Joe was confident his tests were an accurate representation of the jobs he’d analyzed.  Joe then entered the task details and passing criteria into the ErgoScience WebPAT software.  Designed with the clinician in mind, WebPAT uses a battery of pre-loaded tasks to make test design simple and efficient. And, since WebPAT relies on the same scoring algorithms used in the ErgoScience FCE – and scores each test automatically – Joe’s new tests were done in a snap. 

Picture6Scene 4- Client implementation.  ABC Distributors reviewed and approved the tasks and passing criteria for each test Joe created.  The company’s recruiters were trained in the process of ordering tests and retrieving results. Clinicians were in the process of test administration and scoring.  Once the training was complete, the testing was launched.  Recruiters accessed the WebPAT portal to schedule applicants.  Applicants accessed the portal to sign consent forms and fill out medical questionnaires.  When the applicants arrived at the clinic, the clinician logged into WebPAT and performed the test.  WebPAT’s built-in error checking and automatic scoring provided immediate results to the employer. 

WC Savings rising-1

Scene 5- The reports are in.  After a year of pre-hire screens, the results were in: ABC was seeing significant reductions in injuries among warehouse worker and delivery drivers.  Better still, ABC realized it had saved hundreds of thousands of dollars since the start of testing, while at the same time reducing the number of lost and restricted days by 60%!  Thanks to Joe, it’s no surprise ABC has expanded testing: more jobs, more locations.  Fewer injuries, bigger savings.  All science.  No fiction.  That’s the real PAT Zone.

Whether you own a practice, manage a clinic or want to help someone who does – The PAT Zone is your ticket to preventing injuries, building relationships and generating cash-based revenue. Get started today

To learn more visit or call (205) 879-6447 today.

Topics: Clinicians

Erin Norton

Written by Erin Norton

Erin help clinics find the best solution to fit their needs from functional capacity evaluations, to job analysis, pre-employment screens or impairment ratings.