Controlling workers' compensation costs is always important to the profitability of businesses, and it becomes more important every year as those costs rise. According to OSHA estimates, employers are paying out nearly $1 billion per week in direct workers' compensation costs today. In 2013 and 2014, the median cost of claims open for more than 7 days was $34,516, according to figures collected from 16 states. Unfortunately, those startling direct costs aren't the whole story. Indirect costs of those workplace injuries are even higher – anywhere from 1.1 to 4.5 times higher – than direct costs, according to OSHA.
Minimizing injuries in your workplace is, of course, the key to reducing workers' compensation claims, and physical abilities testing (PAT) is one of the most effective tools available today for preventing workplace injuries. Here are 5 ways your company can use PAT to reduce workers' compensation claims.
- Pre employment testing – A worker who struggles to perform the essential functions of the job is more likely to be injured than one who possesses the strength, agility, and coordination necessary to handle the demands of the job with ease. Well-designed, science-based pre hire physical abilities testing programs can help ensure that the employees you hire are well-matched to the physical demands of the jobs they are placed in – and thus physically capable of performing safely and efficiently in your workplace. These tests are based on the specific demands of the job to be filled and administered after a conditional offer of employment has been extended to a potential employee, but before that person is officially hired. This timing gives employers the option of rescinding the offer should the candidate fail the PAT.
- Testing before employee transfers – Physical abilities testing of employees who are being considered for transfer to another position within your organization can provide another layer of protection against workplace injury. A new job will have different physical demands, and a PAT can ensure that your workers' abilities are a good match for those demands.
- Periodic re-testing – Fitness levels can change over time, so there's no guarantee that current employees are as capable as they were when you hired them. Periodic physical abilities testing in the workplace can help ensure that your employees remain fit for duty, minimizing their risk of injury.
- Fitness for duty tests with reasonable suspicion – Employees who have been out on FLMA leave or who have had recent health troubles may not be as fit as they once were. For these employees, for whom there is reasonable suspicion that fitness for duty may be an issue, a PAT can help employers evaluate the situation objectively, allowing safety measures to be taken to protect the workers in question, as well as general workplace safety.
- Post injury – Physical abilities testing can help ensure workplace safety when used post injury as well. Physical ability screenings can take the guesswork out of return to work decisions and aid in devising a safe and effective return to work plan – especially when transitional duty, work accommodation, or alternative placement may factor into that plan.
A well-designed physical abilities testing program, used properly and consistently in your workplace, can offer a significant reduction in workers' compensation claims and costs, a statement that has been borne out in numerous research studies, with some showing workers' comp costs cut nearly in half. Research has also shown these programs to be very cost-effective, generating savings that typically ensure that PAT programs pay for themselves – often many times over.