Workers’ compensation provides coverage for employees injured or taken ill in the course of their work. The eligibility for benefits is based on a comprehensive medical chart review that would help establish the injury or illness and its debilitating effects. Workers’ compensation can be costly to employers and workers’ compensation insurers, and therefore it is vital to ensure that the worker is indeed unable to work and the complaint is a genuine one.
Similarly, an employer need not have to pay for an injury that is the result of a pre-existing condition an employee has. Pre-employment medicals are therefore important in the workers’ compensation program – they help manage risk at the workplace by making sure that the employees can meet the physical demands placed on them by the nature of the job. Especially, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become doubly important to ensure that the employees are healthy before entering the employment. Besides, there are certain high-risk jobs where the employee must be physically fit to do the work. Pre-employment physicals help identify any health and safety risk at an early stage itself so that preemptive measures can be taken to ensure safety in the workplace.
Identifying Pre-existing Conditions
According to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), more than 19 million working Americans between the ages of 21 and 64 have some physical limitation that may affect their ability to perform certain jobs. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that one in four US adults live with some form of disability; while cognitive disability is most common in young adults, mobility disability is most common among others.
There is a chance that a potential new employee could have a pre-existent condition that puts them at risk for an injury. The pre-employment physical or human performance evaluation (HPE) enables the employer to know whether a potential hire has a pre-existing condition that could put him or her at risk.
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) allows employers to physically and medically evaluate their workers at all stages of their employment. Once a person is offered a job, the employer can make the job conditional on certain things such as pre-employment test, background check and drug test.
However, as the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) warns, pre-employment tests must be selected and monitored with care to avoid the risk of litigation for employers if a selection decision is challenged and determined to be discriminatory, or in violation of state or federal regulations. The tests used must be reliable, legal, valid, and impartial and the HR professionals need to stay aware of any developing trends.
What Does the Evaluation Involve?
A pre-employment physical evaluates health aspects such as the following:
- Vital signs such as heart rate, temperature and blood pressure
- Abdomen health to determine the functionality of organs such as liver and bowel among others
- Heart and lung exam
- Skin appearance to determine if there is any sign or symptom of underlying diseases
Additional testing may also include:
- Vision testing
- TB testing
- Drug and alcohol screenings
- Audiometry testing
- Employers can stay assured that the prospective worker is physically competent to perform the assigned job safely
- Employees will not be performing jobs they shouldn’t be doing because of a pre-existing impairment, and so they will be protected from such harm
- Employers can avoid workers’ compensation injury claims that are not work-related but the result of a pre-existing impairment
- Protect the employee’s co-workers.
A common pre-employment physical test is the DOT (Department of Transportation) physical, which helps ensure that people maintaining a commercial driver’s license are in proper physical, mental, and emotional condition to carry out their job in a way that will keep themselves and others safe.
During a pre-employment physical, the information gathered typically includes – the worker’s medical and occupational history, a medical exam, and evaluation of the worker’s ability to perform tasks that involve lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
The test helps establish a foundation so that the employer can monitor the changes in the employee’s health over time and also use the information for future reference if an injury occurs. Such data can show that only a part of the employee’s injury is caused by his/her current work. Then, the employer will be responsible only for that percentage of impairment under workers’ compensation insurance.
Advantages of Pre-employment Medicals
So, here is a look at the advantages of a pre-employment physical exam.
As a provider of medical record review for workers’ compensation attorneys, we understand that a pre-employment HPE that meets all legal requirements could help minimize the risk of employer liability for injuries or illnesses not caused by the job. The ADA mandates that employers make reasonable accommodations for workers who have physical limitations. However, there are certain limitations to these accommodations. Pre-employment physicals help ensure that a potential new employee is fit for the particular job he or she is applying for.
For a smooth pre-employment physical exam, employees need to take care to bring along with them any assistive devices or aids they may be using, glasses, and more. Along with that, they must also have medical records of past medical conditions if any, surgeries, allergies, and current medications.