Physical Ability Testing: Worth It or Not in Reducing Workplace Injuries?

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 7, 2021 8:00:00 AM / by Deborah Lechner

When exploring the possibility of implementing a physical ability test in their hiring process, employers sometimes wonder whether these programs are worth the investment in reducing workplace injuries. The answer to that question is yes; they are definitely worthwhile, provided your company is using a well-designed, evidence-based testing program customized to the actual everyday physical demands placed upon your employees. Research shows that programs like this can significantly reduce worker injuries, enhance safety and reduce the toll injuries take on your workers, their families, your business, and your bottom line.

Reducing Workplace Injuries With Physical Ability Testing

As an employer, your goal is to hire new employees that will be valuable assets to your company. However, it isn't always easy to predict which applicants will perform well on the job via traditional screening methods.

Relying on self-reported work histories, references and interviews to judge the validity of a candidate or their potential performance leaves significant room for error, especially if safe and efficient performance in your workplace requires a certain level of physical fitness, strength and agility. When using these screening tactics alone, defensibly judging applicants can be a guessing game— one that can have far-reaching consequences for your business. Why? Employees who aren't well-equipped to handle the physical demands of the job pose a higher risk of injury to themselves and their coworkers That sort of costly mistake is exactly what a research-based physical ability test is designed to prevent. These testing programs work to evaluate an applicant's ability to perform the specific tasks and functions that will actually be required of them on the job. This eliminates the guesswork involved in judging the fitness of a potential new hire, giving you an accurate and objective means of determining whether each candidate is physically capable of delivering safe, solid job performance it’s quite literally the difference between hiring an asset to your business and employing a liability.

How Much Difference Can Physical Ability Testing Make?

So just what do the experts have to say about the impact of this type of testing? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, when properly applied, physical ability tests are among the most useful and valid tools available for predicting success in jobs and training. Further, studies looking into the impact of physical ability testing on workplace safety have proven their worth in reducing the frequency and severity of injuries.

Among the more notable research into the impact of ability testing is a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.  Researchers found that employees of a large food production plant who were able to demonstrate the capability to meet the specific physical demands of their jobs sustained fewer injuries as compared to those who could not (as judged by a physical ability test). Further, those performing well in testing suffered  a 3 percent incidence of back injuries, as compared to a 33 percent incidence in employees that did not. In a similar study, researchers at the University of Illinois showed that pre-work ability testing reduced injuries by 18.5 percent, a difference that reduced injury-related costs by $18 for every $1 spent on testing. 

According to these studies and a wide variety of others, a well-designed physical ability test, tailored to meet the actual demands  of your workplace, can result in a substantial reduction in workplace injuries and their associated costs. Here’s the best part: they're quite cost effective too, offering a respectable return on the testing investment. Fewer hiring hassles, better-qualified employees, increased workplace safety and benefits for your bottom line; that is what you can expect when you make physical ability testing part of your employee screening protocol.

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.