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Post-offer screening can reduce workplace injuries

  • Published Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Workplace injuries affect a company’s bottom line every day.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Post-offer testing can be every employer’s “ounce” of protection against rising workers’ compensation costs.

Check out these statistics:

•  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports in 2010 there were nearly 3.1 million nonfatal occupational injuries in the United States.

•  Liberty Mutual estimates that overexertion injuries related to pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, holding or throwing remain the highest cause of work-related disability and cost businesses about $12.8 billion in direct costs. Direct costs include medical payments, workers’ compensation payments and legal services.

It is estimated that the indirect cost of occupational injuries range from $2 to $10 for each $1 of direct costs. Indirect costs include loss of productivity, retraining replacement workers, additional administrative time to deal with the accident or injury, schedule delays and loss of employee morale. Total costs of workplace injuries in 2010 can be estimated at $25.5 billion to $127.5 billion.

Post-offer functional testing reduces injuries by making sure potential employees can perform the actual physical demands of the job.

Based on a thorough Quantitative Job Demands Analysis, these tests are allowed under federal law and regulations because they are job-specific and test only essential functions. Post-offer testing may also be called post-offer screening, post-offer employment testing or physical agility testing.

When starting a post-offer testing program, there is no need to start a companywide program initially. Employers may choose to target the jobs with the highest injury rates or highest risk.

It is imperative, though, that every applicant for that job be required to complete the test. If an applicant fails to meet the physical demands, the employment offer can be rescinded.

To develop an accurate test, a thorough analysis of job demands must be completed. This step must not be overlooked as this is the component that makes the post-offer screening program legally defensible. To be sure the test is job-specific, the physical demands must actually be measured and quantified by a person certified to perform such activities.

To remain compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a post-offer testing program must also be functional. Avoid general strength testing or comparisons to normative data.

A test violates the law when it compares an applicant’s abilities to a “normal” standard. Normal doesn’t matter. What matters is whether an individual can perform the essential functions of the job. Most of the lawsuits lost by employers have been due to testing based on strength alone rather than functional testing related to the job demands.

Studies have shown anywhere from a $6 to $18 return on investment with post-offer testing. In a program at a regional health center, the company tested nurse assistants and found for every $1 spent on screening they saved $6. A large university hospital implemented post-offer and return-to-work testing for physical plant employees and found an $18 savings for every $1 spent on the program. Their total costs for injuries decreased 78 percent. One local manufacturer realized a 50 percent reduction in repetitive motion injuries after starting their post-offer testing program.

Post-offer testing will have a positive effect on a company’s profitability by decreasing work-related injuries. Can business owners not afford an “ounce” of prevention?

Nancy Wilson is the owner of WorkSafe Physical Therapy, which has been in business since 2000 and employs four licensed therapists. Wilson can be reached at 316-262-8800 or nwilson@worksafept.com.

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