Is pre-hire/post-offer Physical Abilities Testing right for your beverage distribution organization?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jun 4, 2021 1:36:15 PM / by Deborah Lechner

This is the fourth part of a 5-part series on why injuries occur in the beverage distribution and how they can be prevented.

Before reading on you might like to read the introduction here



Pre-Hire Physical Abilities Testing (PAT) is not for every organization. For example, in organizations where injuries are occurring primarily in tenured employees, testing newly hired employees won’t impact the tenured workers. Other organizations may not be growing or their turn-over is very low – so they’re not hiring. It’s hard to make an impact with pre-hire testing when there’s no hiring. Other organizations just aren’t having any injuries. No injuries, no rationale for pre-hire testing.

But most beverage distribution organizations don’t fall into any of the above categories. Instead, they are growing and have high turn-over and are hiring and their work-related injuries, especially among new-hires, are increasing. If they’re hiring and having new-hire injuries, they are a prime candidate for pre-hire testing.

But just because the testing would be good for the organization, the organization might not be right for testing. To make this determination, the decision process really involves 4 simple steps:

Step 1: Determine if the cost of strains and sprains and slips, trips and falls is enough to justify implementing testing. Be sure to include both the direct and the indirect costs before making a decision about the testing. Below are OSHA guidelines for choosing the correct multiplier for determining indirect costs. If the costs aren’t considered high enough to make this a priority, then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to move this forward and get the final approval.

Questions to ask about your injury costs:

  • How many injuries (strains and slips trips and falls) are you having each year?
  • What are the annual total incurred costs (medical and indemnity costs) for strains and slips trips and falls? This are considered your total direct costs.
  • What are your indirect costs for these injuries? (typically 1.2 times the direct costs)
  • What are your Total Costs (Direct Costs + Indirect Costs)
  • What’s the daily cost of these injuries? (This figure can be surprising.)
  • Are these costs large enough to make this a priority for your organization?

Step 2: Determine if the hassle, frustration, and distraction of dealing with these injuries warrant initiating testing. Work related injuries may affect some of the team members more than others. The big question in a tight labor market will be the impact on hiring. Operations and HR will likely want to know the test’s fail rate and turn-around time for getting testing done before they will be willing to lobby for pre-hire testing. The extent of the perceived hassle will tell you something about your organization’s will to make a change. The hassle of the problem has to exceed the hassle of the change in order to marshal the will to fix the problem.  

Questions to ask about the operational distractions:

  • How many lost and restricted duty days did you have from these injuries?
  • What is the personal/professional impact on each team member when an injury happens?
  • What could each of your team management members (Safety, HR, Risk Management, Operations) and front-line supervisors be doing instead of handling and managing these injuries?
  • Do any of these distractions make it worth doing something about the injuries?
  • Are the injuries stressing your organization enough to make a change?
  • Are all members of the management team on board with testing?

Step 3: Determine the impact the cost and lost productivity and profitability has on your organization as whole. Considering both the cost and the hassle, is the overall organization impacted by work-related injuries enough to warrant the testing?

Questions to about the financial impact:

  • What impact does the lost productivity have?
  • Does lost productivity affect order fulfillment?
  • Does it affect customer satisfaction?
  • What is the impact on employee morale?
  • What impact does the cost of injuries have on the company as a whole?
  • Do these costs impact profitability?

Step 4: Presenting your case to the executive team. It is likely that an executive team member will need to give the final approval. So, anticipate their questions and collaborate with a preferred vendor/provider of testing services to have the answers at hand.

Questions to ask before you present to the executive team:

  • What data will your executive team expect to see in order to make a good decision?
  • Can we achieve an ROI?
  • Is the testing legally defensible?
  • What happens if we do nothing?
  • Where does fixing this injury problem fall on our priority list of projects?

In summary, after you’ve walked through these 4 simple steps, you should have a clear idea of whether the pre-hire or pre-employment Physical Abilities Testing is right for your organization. If you’d like to discuss this further with ErgoScience or get cost estimates for implementing a testing program, contact:

Deborah Lechner, PT, MS, President ErgoScience, Inc.

Get our case study showing how we helped one beverage distribution organization save 50% on their work comp within 3 years.


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.