Reducing Workplace Injury Starts Before You Hire: The Case for Pre Employment Testing

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 22, 2021 8:00:00 AM / by Deborah Lechner

For the savvy business owner, smart workforce decisions begin long before the day a new employee reports for their first day on the job. But what if you could reduce the chance of injury before a candidate ever punches the clock? Pre employment testing can make the choice easier.

Employers are accustomed to conducting background checks and drug screens post-offer.  And many are now considering testing physical abilities as well —conducting a specialized work capacity test designed specifically for the unique tasks related to your job positions—the proactive approach in a world where  responding reactively to injury is expensive, both in dollars and employee morale.

Typical Post-Hire Injury Reduction Methods

There are a number of typical ways businesses seek to reduce on the job injury once an employee is hired. Traditional tactics include:

Injury and Illness Prevention Programs

Part education, part leadership, part hazard identification and assessment, prevention and control, these comprehensive programs rely on worker and managerial participation and the interrelation of all the pieces of the program to be successful. OSHA has conducted a number of studies on the implementation of these popular programs. Findings conclude injury reduction from 9% to more than 30% in every state where they’ve been in place.[1]  However, if an employee is not capable of performing the job safely, no amount of training will change that. 

Incentive Programs

Consider these the “carrot” type of injury prevention tactics: programs that incentivize employees to practice precaution and reduce injury in return for perks and prizes. OSHA, however, frowns on these types of programs, as they are often more like a “stick” in nature, as employees are also incentivized to not report injury when it happens which would blow their team’s chance of being awarded a prize.[2]

Job Rotation

Switching things up so that workers perform two or more different tasks during different times in the day can be a successful strategy for reducing injury, but only if care is taken to ensure both jobs do not present the same ergonomic stressors to the same parts of the body. OSHA recommends that “job rotation should be used with caution and as a preventive measure, not as a response to symptoms,” and that this method should be a part of a comprehensive prevention program, not as the prevention program itself.[3]

Fortunately, beyond these tactics, there is one more variable employers can control even before work starts: the physical appropriateness of employees for the jobs they are hired to perform. That’s where pre employment physical abilities testing can really make a difference.

Innovative Pre-Hire Injury Reduction

The flip side of the above options is to make a quantified decision on what employee to hire based upon their actual ability to perform the job. Pre employment physical abilities testing—performed after a conditional offer is presented—is a smart way for employers to reduce the potential for injury before work even starts, by weeding out applicants who may not be able to safely perform the specific work being offered them. Used in conjunction with all or a few of the above mentioned after-the-hire tactics, pre employment testing is simply a good start to what you'd hope would be a long and healthy relationship.

According to the National Safety Council and Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor, “Workplace injury and illness costs the U.S. economy 198.2 billion dollars a year,” and employers who invest in reducing injury proactively are investing in saving money, as well as saving lives. He goes on to add “Workplace safety is not only the right thing to do for your workers; it’s the right thing to do for your business.”[4] We’d agree: and add that getting an early start—conducting pre employment physical abilities testing—just makes the right decision easier.

When are Physical abilities test best performed  


[1] https://www.osha.gov/dsg/InjuryIllnessPreventionProgramsWhitePaper.html

[2] http://ohsonline.com/articles/2012/09/01/oshas-stance-on-safety-incentive-programs.aspx

[3] http://ergo-plus.com/job-rotation-effective-method-reducing-injury-risk/

[4] https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/safetyhealth/

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.

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