Protecting Against Workers’ Compensation: Are Your Employees Fit for Duty?

By Alana Smart / June 5, 2019 / Blog ,

Protecting Against Workers’ Compensation: Are Your Employees Fit for Duty?

Injuries and Workers' Compensation


When a company hires an employee for a physical demanding job, they run the risk of their employee getting injured on the job. If a work-related injury does occur, not only is the company down a quality member of their staff, they also will most likely have a workers’ compensation claim filed against them. Data shows us that, “consequences of failing to address deeper systemic issues that put workers at risk. U.S. businesses lose more than $1 billion a week – or nearly $60 billion a year – because of work-related injuries,” according to the 2018, Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. 

Consider this, according to AARP, more than 19 million working Americans between the ages of 21 and 64 have some physical limitation that could affect their ability to perform certain tasks. According to the CDC, the most common type of disability (one in seven adults) affects mobility, and with age, disabilities become more common.

That means there is nearly a 10% chance that a potential new-hire could have a pre-existing impairment, knowingly or unknowingly. This impairment could potentially could predispose this individual for an increased chance of injury, especially on a job requiring physical exertion or certain movements involving a vulnerable body part. 

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that protects employees when they’re injured in a work-related incident or become ill due to their working environment. If an employee does file a claim for workers’ compensation, their employer is mandated to supply appropriate medical benefits, and wage replacement for the elected amount of time that is required by the state that their company is located in. To view your state’s workers compensation policy, check it out here.

The good news is, there are ways to decrease a company’s risk of exposure to workers’ compensation cases and improve overall employee safety. This can be done through different exams that can baseline and monitor your employee’s overall health. These exams will help a company determine whether an employee can safely perform their job functions.  Depending on the industry, there are many different exams or tests that can be done to see if your employees can safely perform their jobs. Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll be focusing on the evaluation if an employee is physically “fit for duty” based on their job requirements.


Most Common Work Related Injuries


What is Fit for Duty Testing?


In certain industries, employees are at greater risk of getting injured at the workplace. Unfortunately, this usually means that certain employers are at greater risk of having workers’ compensation claims being filed against them. To take precaution against workers’ compensation, there are extra measures your company can pursue when going through the onboarding process for prospective employees. This extra measure is called, fit for duty testing.

For an employee to be considered fit for duty for employment by law, according to OSHA, “fit for duty means that an individual is in a physical, mental, and emotional state which enables the employee to perform the essential tasks of his or her work assignment in a manner which does NOT threaten the safety or health of oneself, co-workers, property, or the public at large.”

Fit for duty testing is legal to pursue as long as you don’t discriminate against a worker who has a disability. This is always the case, unless, their disability doesn’t allow them to perform the necessary and essential job functions with reasonable accommodations. You must always have proof and data showing that the employee cannot perform the necessary tasks to complete the job successfully. You can gather proof of capability to work through Physical Exams and Physical Ability Tests.



Should Physical Exams be Considered?


Physical Exam

The answer to this question is, absolutely, yes. Using physical exams to establish a baseline should always be considered when you’re hiring a new employee. A baseline physical is a way to ensure that your employee is healthy at the time of employment. It will also help uncover any medical ailments that could put both the individual and other employees at risk.

For example, let’s say that you are about to hire an employee to operate heavy machinery for your construction company.  During their baseline physical exam, the medical professional notices that the individual’s vision is poor and not sharp enough to operate machinery. This employee will now be required to obtain corrective eyewear or lenses in order to pass another physical exam. Because of the findings of this exam, a high probability of an at work accident has likely been averted.

A baseline physical exam is important to ensure your new employee is fit to perform their job. It is almost equally important that a physical exam is completed on an annual basis to be sure your employee does not develop any new health risks that could potentially result in their injury or the injury of others.



Physical Ability Testing


Physical Ability Test


If the requirements of a job are physically demanding and require repetitive motions like pushing, pulling or lifting a certain amount of weight regularly, a Physical Ability Test should be considered. Though a physical exam is a great start to see if an employee is fit for duty, there is no better test than a PAT (Physical Ability Test) to simulate the requirements of a job.

A PAT is administered by a physical therapist or medical professional to gauge the candidate’s capacity for the physical demands for the job at hand. These medical professionals will be able to simulate the necessary motions and demands the job requires. They can do this by reviewing the full job description of the job the employee will be performing and evaluate what types of physical endurance the employee must possess. For example, if the job requires the candidate to lift 50lbs throughout an average day, the doctor can administer a physical ability test that either proves or disproves that they are able to lift that amount of weight with repetition and stamina. According to the results, an educated decision can then be made if this employee can safely perform their job.



Benefits of a Physical Ability Test


  •  Higher likelihood that employees job performance and the employer's satisfaction will be maximized.
  •  Filter out potential employees who will be unable to safely perform the essential functions of their jobs.
  •  Potential for injury and lost work time are minimized which in result, maximizes productivity.
  •  Reduced medical & indemnity costs which directly correlates to lower worker replacement costs.


Safety First


Accidents happen, injuries happen. However, implementing physical exams and physical ability testing for your candidates and employees is a step in the right direction. By taking these extra precautions, you will be providing a safer and more efficient work environment for your employees as well as protecting the company’s bottom line.


Start Protecting Your Employees and Company


NMS Health is a full service occupational health provider with coverage throughout all 50 states. We can help your company implement an exam program that will best keep your employees safe and reduce your company's workers' compensation exposure. Learn more about how NMS Health makes a program like this simple, without your company needing to spend any additional resources on managing it.

Get Started today.

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