Post-offer Physical Ability Screens: Where are they effective?

By James Landsman

May 8, 2018 - You may have heard that conducting post-offer physical ability screens on job applicants is a great strategy to avoid injuries. As a leading provider of this service, of course we agree, but we are also objective enough to say, “It depends.” To help you look at this injury prevention option realistically, here are some things to consider:

  1. Start with an analysis of your loss run data.
    1. Compare the hire and incident dates of those injured to determine if you have a pattern of injuries taking place shortly after hire. We use 18 months as our guideline. We believe injuries that fall outside of this 18-month window are better served through other injury prevention strategies.
    2. Next, look at those injured within that 18-month window and determine if they are dominated by large muscle sprains and strains (e.g. necks, backs, shoulders). Large muscle sprains and strains are the target injuries for a post-offer physical ability screen program. Our experience tells us it is more difficult to effectively screen out other types of injuries, (e.g. hand or elbow injuries).
    3. You do not need to set up a screen protocol for every job. Again, your loss run data can be your best guide. Be careful in your approach and choose jobs that exhibit the right characteristics.
  2. Consider whether the job has a cardiovascular demand. If it does, some service providers like us confirm the level of cardiovascular demand and screen job applicants to make certain they are healthy enough to meet that specific demand. We believe this supports a more effective program.
  3. Compare the cost/complexity of implementing a program to your turnover rate.
    1. If you have many jobs, the cost to measure and validate the essential function job demands as part of implementing a program can be high. This could be an obstacle unless you also need this data to create ADA-compliant job descriptions and/or to support your return-to-work program.  
    2. If you hire at several locations, the cost to equip and train new sites as part of implemention can be high. Alignment with a current network of screen sites can significantly reduce this cost.
    3. If your turnover rate is low, your risk exposure is also low and the potential savings may not offset the potential implementation costs described above.
  4. Explore if companies you compete with for employees are conducting screens and disqualifying job applicants. If they are, disqualified applicants will seek work elsewhere, and your employment pool risk profile may be worse than you expect. For this reason you may want to consider implementing a screen program.
  5. Finally, think about your business objectives. With this service there is a natural tension between the competing needs of safety and recruiting. Legally you cannot screen at a level higher than what is supported by the validated job demands analysis, but you can screen at a lower threshold based on business necessity. However, doing so inherently increases your injury risk.
    1. If recruiting is critical and your program provider does not know how—or  want to–tailor your protocols accordingly, moving forward may not be in your best interest.
    2. If your leadership team is focused on recruiting and has little to no concern for injury costs, post-offer physical ability screens are not a reasonable strategy for your business.

We believe it is important to look at each injury prevention solution objectively and determine whether or not it is right for a client. We believe the best solution is your solution.

If you are interested in exploring your options for post-offer physical ability screen services, please contact us. We are confident you will like what you hear.