Would You Hire this Guy?

[fa icon="calendar'] May 18, 2016 3:46:59 PM / by Deborah Lechner

… to drive a flatbed truck?                         

… to work in your warehouse?

…  as a construction laborer?

… for a maintenance job?

… as a utility lineman?

… as a security guard?

If you’re not conducting pre-hire/post-offer Physical Abilities Testing (PAT) you probably would.  And you know what?  You’d be hiring a serious injury waiting to happen – especially if your job requires walking on uneven or slippery surfaces (like outdoors), climbing and working on elevated heights, climbing ladders, poles or stairs or working on scaffolding.  But do you know why?

 It’s certainly not because of anything you can see during an interview.  He’s not overweight, he’s not “too skinny,” he’s not “too old” or “too unhealthy-looking” – in fact he’s the picture of health.  But what you don’t know is that this otherwise healthy young man sustained a closed head injury in the past – something you can’t ask about on interview.   While you can’t ask, your pre-hire PAT testing provider can and should ask about previous and current illnesses and injuries to make sure candidates are safe to be tested.  Now, it’s worth remembering that just because candidates have had injuries or illnesses (and who of us hasn’t?), it doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified for the job.  If they fail the job-specific PAT, however, they are not qualified and should not be hired - and your conditional job offer can be rescinded as a result. 

If your PAT includes job-specific balance testing and the candidate fails that part of the test, then his/her balance is not adequate for the job.  Which just happened to be the case with the young man described above.  He failed the balance test in a big way – he didn’t even come close to passing.  That closed head injury he sustained years ago left him with a significant – and practically invisible – impairment.  And if his would-be employer - the owner of a flatbed trucking company -  had hired him, a second injury would have been very likely – as his position would have required him to climb onto and off of the flatbed trailer several times a day to tarp his loads.  Not only would the company be liable for a second serious, if not fatal, injury, costing them thousands - if not millions - of dollars.  This young man’s life is at stake – something that no employer can take lightly. 

You may think this is a one in a million case.  You’d be wise to think again.  In 2011, slips, trips and falls accounted for 25% of all occupational injuries and 15% of workplace fatalities, according to data compiled by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Making sure applicant physical abilities match job demands is not only good business practice, it’s morally “the right thing to do.”  Applicants will always assume they can do the job going in.  It’s only after hire when the reality hits - “Wow, this job is a lot harder than I thought.” or “Man, it’s hard to balance up here.” But by that time, the employee has received that first paycheck and it’s feeling pretty good to have money coming in. Or their pride won’t let them admit to their peers or supervisors that the job is too hard. So need or pride silences fears and concerns.  And before you know it, you have yourself a serious injury.

So don’t rely on your impressions during interview to help you decide if the applicant has the physical ability to do the job.  Often you’ll be wrong.  Erring on the side of hiring can get you an injury.  Erring on the side of not making the offer due to a “perceived disability” can get you sued. So, what’s a hiring manager to do?

Get objective data.  Test your employees using a job-specific PAT.  Trust the results. Act accordingly. Equipped with objective data, you’ll have the information you need to make a hiring decision knowing whether the applicant’s abilities meet the job demands. It may take a few days and few dollars to make that happen, but compared to the alternative, it’s an investment you can’t afford not to make.    

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.