5 Things to Know About Gender Neutral Physical Ability Tests

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 12, 2016 8:00:00 AM / by Deborah Lechner

Gender neutral Physical Abilities Tests (PATs) are becoming increasingly popular among employers as a means of ensuring the ability of workers doing their jobs safely. By evaluating the physical capabilities of potential or existing workers to ensure that they are well-matched to the actual physical demands of the job, employers can greatly improve workplace safety, reducing risk to employees and overall injury rates and costs. If you're considering gender neutral Physical Ability Testing for your company, here are 5 things to know that can help ensure that your testing program meets your risk management and workplace safety needs.

How Gender Neutral Physical Ability Tests Work

Gender neutral PATs test potential or existing workers for theit capability to meet the physical demands that will be placed upon them in performing the essential functions of a particular job. This is done by evaluating specific qualities that are required to perform safely and efficiently in that job, such as strength in a job that requires lifting or agility and balance in a position that requires climbing and/or working at heights. Scores are based solely on the ability of test subjects to manage job-related tasks, regardless of gender or other differentiating factors – age or general health, for instance.

Starting with Detailed, Accurate Job Demands Analysis is Essential

An effective Physical Ability Test can accurately determine whether or not a person is physically capable of the job at hand. Building that sort of accuracy into your PAT program requires that the process of designing that program begin with a detailed analysis of the precise tasks your employees do every day as they perform essential job functions. This analysis should be done in your workplace environment by experienced job analysts via first-hand observation or videotaping and measurement of forces and distances. Additionally, since EEOC guidelines specify that employment tests must be tightly correlated with actual job demands, basing your PATs on detailed job demands analysis is also essential to ensuring regulatory compliance and legal defensibility.

Consistency is Key

Consistency is key to a good PAT program. That means that anyone who is hired for or promoted to a particular position must be tested and evaluated according to the exact same standards. Making exceptions to testing policies can not only undermine the effectiveness of your Physical Ability Tests, but can also leave your company vulnerable to legal and regulatory challenges.

Ongoing Results Analysis is Crucial

Keeping track of details like injury rates, injury costs, pass-fail rates, and employee turnover to ensure that those numbers are moving in the desired direction is crucial to evaluating the accuracy and validity of your testing program. It is also crucial to regulatory compliance, since effective monitoring of program results can detect issues like "adverse impact," which is when an employment test screens out a protected class in disproportionate numbers. However, it’s important to understand that creating adverse impact is not illegal as long as it is justified – meaning the elements of the test that are screening out the protected class must be related to essential job functions. If you want to eliminate or reduce the job requirements that are creating the adverse impact, conducting ergonomic assessments and developing solutions can lower the overall physical demand of the job and allow the hiring of a protected class in greater numbers.

Carefully Selecting Your Provider is Critical

Covering all your bases in terms of the details outlined above and others is essential to creating and implementing a PAT program that is effective in producing significant improvements in workplace safety and substantial reductions in injury costs for your company. It is also critical to ensuring that your program does not become the source of compliance issues or lawsuits for your company. Given the potential benefits of getting it right, and the possibility of harsh consequences if you don't, choosing a test provider wisely is critical. Look for a provider who specializes in Physical Ability Tests, uses research-based and validated testing methods, and has a solid track record of creating accurate, effective, and legally defensible testing programs.

When are Physical abilities test best performed

Topics: Pre Employment Screening

Deborah Lechner

Written by Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.