Are Physical Ability Tests Worth the Cost?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jul 22, 2020 8:00:00 AM / by Deborah Lechner

Does using a physical ability test really reduce workplace injury—and create return on investment?

Every decision you make for your business affects its bottom line, so the return-on-investment question is vital. 

Employees are a business’s most valuable asset—and often its largest expense. Finding just the right workers with just the right mix of skills and work ethic is a challenge. And in positions with high levels of physical stress and strain, the right level of physical ability is equally important to productivity and the bottom line. 

Mis-hiring—placing a person in a position for which they are physically unsuited—will inevitably result in increased on-the-job injuries.

So, how does your business choose its employees? Are you using a  validated, peer-reviewed pre-hire/post-offer Physical Abilities Test? Is it administered by a reputable provider with the insight and rigor to create a test suited to your jobs?

Pre-hire Physical Abilities Testing can be the difference between a happy, healthy workforce and an injury waiting to happen. But is the investment really worth it? Do these tests actually reduce injury and save money? The research says yes.

Dramatic Cost Savings. A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago [1], using the ErgoScience testing protocols, found dramatic declines in the number and cost of injuries. The average cost per case also dramatically decreased when comparing those tested vs. those not tested.  The study found cost savings of over $18 per $1 dollar spent on the program!    

Decreases in Recordables. Reimer et al[1] took a close look at the grocery industry, studying the effectiveness of pre-employment Physical Abilities Testing combined with a worker wellness program. This study found significant decreases in injuries—and injury-related expenses like litigation, lost work days and work comp claims—over a 3.5-year period when pre-hire testing was used to screen potential employees.

Fewer Lost Duty Days. Another study looked at workers’ activities at a 250-bed hospital. Researchers found that pre-hire Physical Abilities Testing, used in combination with case management,  significantly reduced the severity of lost time injuries, leading to fewer lost duty days and improved productivity for the hospital. [3]

Lower Turn Over. A study involving warehouse jobs in 3 different industries tested and hired job applicants – regardless of whether they passed the test. Test results were not shared with applicants or management. After monitoring the applicants for a two-year period and comparing those who passed vs. those who failed, they found that new-hires who passed the pre-hire Physical Abilities Testing not only had a 47% lower injury rate, they also had 21% higher employee retention rate [4]

So, is a physical ability test worth it?

Our clients would answer a resounding, YES!!!

The decision is yours, however. What is a safer, more prepared workforce worth to your business and bottom line?

To quote a well-worn but relevant phrase —the real question might be, can you afford not to conduct a physical ability test? 

You can click the button below to schedule a free discovery call with one of our experts! In 30 minutes or less, we can help you figure out what a proper, research-backed PAT solution can do for your organization. 

Book Discovery Call Today


When are Physical abilities test best performed


[1]  Littleton M. Cost-effectiveness of a prework screening program for the University of Illinois at Chicago Physical Plant. Work 2003; 21: 243–250.

[2] Reimer DS, Halbrook BD, Dreyfuss PH, Tibiletti C. A Novel Approach to Preemployment Worker Fitness Evaluations in a Material-Handling Industry. Spine 1994;19(18):2026-2032.

[3] Nassau DW. The Effects of Prework Functional Screening on Lowering an Employer’s Injury Rate, Medical Costs, and Lost Work Days. Spine 02/01/1999; 24(3): 1-10.

[4] Anderson C, Briggs J. A study on the effectiveness of ergonomically-based functional screening tests and their relationship to reducing workers’ compensation injuries. Work. 2008;31(1):27- 30


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.