Employee Physical Capacity Tests in Waterloo, Iowa | UnityPoint Health

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Physical Capacity 

Post-Offer Testing Now Available at Allen Hospital Occupational Health

One of the most valuable resources for any business is its employees. As the total number of qualified job applicants shrinks, hiring and retaining qualified workers is the greatest challenge that employers face. Valuable resources are wasted if employers hire and train new employees only to find out that they do not have the physical ability to perform the job. Post-offer testing such as the Physical Capacity Profile (PCP) provides an opportunity to serve both the employer and the employee through injury prevention.

Data shows that no one walks in the door 100% healthy per the American Medical Association Guides (AMA).

The PCP has tested over 80,000 applicants from a network of 60 plus locations in 8 states including right here in Waterloo, IA at Allen Hospital Occupational Health. The system has successfully undergone the scrutiny of ADA, HIPPA, and EEOC compliances and has been registered with the FDA. The system differentiates itself from other testing protocol in many ways but one of the keys is the maximum strength baseline measurements for 28 points in less than 30 minutes.

Most state statutes support employers with good objective medical data, by stating "Employers are responsible for only the degree of injury or aggravation caused by their place of employment". Without good medical baseline data, employers have to assume every employee they hire is 100% healthy and then are held responsible to pay for all injuries and workers compensation expenses. In most jurisdictions, in the event of a compensable injury, the employer is only responsible for the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Employers who have the Physical Capacity Profile baseline information on their employees have a tool that assists them in ensuring employers are only paying for such aggravation and not the entire pre-existing condition. Absent this baseline data, employers can end up paying much more in workers compensation benefits.

Data shows that no one walks in the door 100% healthy per the American Medical Association Guides (AMA), the standardize guide by which many physician's make their apportionments. Employer's medical, legal, and insurance teams are excited about having the data made available to them to help the employers determine their degree of liability and to assist in assuring an employee when injured is appropriately rehabilitated or if necessary, compensated fairly.

More employers are giving these tests so doctors have objective data on which to base findings, which means it's admissible in court.

There have been several types of other post offer tests available to employers for years. A physician's physical is one of the most familiar to employers. During such an exam, an employee may be asked a series of medical questions, asked to read an eye chart, have their reflexes checked by tapping on the knee, and might even be asked to bend over as far as they can so that range of motion can be observed. Another testing protocol used by employers has been the job task simulation or replication of a job in a clinic environment. For example, an applicant for a restaurant server position might be asked to demonstrate their ability to carry a tray with multiple plates on it, or a housekeeping position might have to push a full laundry cart. These tests do provide some benefit to the employer at the time of hire but what happens when one of these applicants are hired and four months later they injure their right shoulder, or their back? What information can be gleamed from these types of tests to help reduce the workers compensation claim or in the rehabilitation process?

The PCP is different. Instead of simply replicating the job task, Dr. Harbin determined that maximum force measurements could be taken for each job and then by asking employees to demonstrate maximum abilities it can be determined if an applicant is a good fit/match or not. Instead of a housekeeping applicant pushing a loaded laundry cart, we would determine how much force it takes to push the cart and then determine through the PCP if the person can generate enough force to do the job. The testing system provides the employer with three pages of objective data. Page one shares with the employer the overall physical capability of the applicant utilizing the Department of Labor's five classifications of work. Instead of a pass fail, the PCP lets the employer determine where the person is the best fit for the organization, if they are not a good fit the job offer can be rescinded. Page two documents the injuries and impairment the employee is bringing to the job therefore helping to limit the employer's workers compensation liabilities. The last page contains the baseline measurements that can be used to help the treating professional know where the employee started and where they should be returned to. More employers are giving these tests so doctors have objective data on which to base findings, which mean it's admissible in court. With these tests, the employer and the employee will have evidence they need to prove in court the extent of the injury.

The Physical Capacity Profile answers these questions; Does an employee really have the physical strength to perform their job, Have they ever paid for a worker's compensation claim not caused by their place of employment, and finally, is the employee truly ready to return safely to work after an injury. Unlike other testing, when deciding to perform post-offer testing, there are some important issues that need consideration. Unlike pre-employment agility type tests that allow for the testing of pools of applicants, the ADA guidelines require medical examinations be performed only after a conditional offer has been made. The PCP test is a medical examination due to the monitoring of blood pressure and heart rate and can only be performed after a conditional offer has been made. Post-offer tests are considered much more cost effective for the employer because every applicant is not tested; only the one to whom they make a conditional offer.

There have been multiple research studies published since 1994 that speak to the effectiveness of post-offer screening. These studies have shown and continue to show significant decreases in injury rates, decreased costs associated with the injuries, and the reduction in turnover rates. Studies show that companies using the Physical Capacity Profile test system saved on average $6 to $8 for every $1 spent on testing with some recording as much as a $13 return.

When performing post-offer testing, matching an employee's abilities to the essential functions of the job or the job demands become very important. If the employee's physical abilities match the job demands, the employer has a new employee, if the employee's physical abilities are not a match to the job demands, with the PCP data the employer can rescind the offer, or place the person into a job level the employee does match.

There are several steps an employer must follow to ensure a valid, legally defensible, and cost-effective post-offer screen. The first step is the employer should target the jobs they want to screen; they may not need to screen all jobs within the organization. A few of the jobs may be creating most of the injuries. The second step is to perform a job-demands analysis. Accurately identifying the most physically demanding aspects of the job ensures the true requirements of the job are tested. The final step is to follow-up after starting to test. Tracking the injury costs before and after initiation of the test program, can provide justification for expanding the testing. Also requirements of the positions can change with time requiring new assessment of the demands of the position.