How Prework Screening Can Help Reduce Workers' Compensation Claims
Krista Scott, Industrial Hygienist
Look up the term “prework screening” and chances are you’ll find information about how drug testing, job history verification, criminal background checks and Social Security number traces can help protect your company from hiring questionable employees. But how can prework screenings help reduce workers’ compensation claims? The answer is simple–test prospective employees (who have accepted a conditional job offer) for their physical ability to do the jobs they will be assigned.
Consider the experience of a policyholder in the automotive industry that was experiencing recurring injuries on its supply line. After instituting a prework screening program for physical abilities, they noticed a reduction in claims. Other companies EMC works with are benefitting from prework screening when hiring temporary workers and ensuring employees at recently acquired locations are right for the job.
Six Steps to Effective Prework Screenings
- Target the jobs to be tested—Review injury data (such as your injury records or your claims records) to identify problem jobs that should be screened first. Look for jobs affected by lost time from injuries such as musculoskeletal/back injuries, multiple injuries and trauma, and jobs where tasks include lifting and carrying, balancing, use of ladders, overhead reaching, repetitive motion and postutres, awkward postures or climbing.
- Analyze the physical demands—For the jobs targeted in step one, identify and measure the physical demands. EMC can help with this process or you can consult with the physical/occupational therapist who will design the test.
- Have the physical therapist develop the prework screening test features and pass/fail criteria.—Provide the job description with the physical demands outlined to the physical therapist. The therapist will then identify the prework screening test features and develop the actual performance tests. You should receive written documents from the therapist for your review.
- Establish procedures before testing begins (with the therapist)—Answer the following questions before you begin testing:
- Where will testing occur?
- How will applicants be referred to this location?
- What will happen if an applicant’s resting blood pressure and/or heart rate exceed safe levels for testing?
- How will test-related injuries be handled?
- How will pregnant or disabled applicants be tested?
- How will the test results be handled?
- How will the test failures be handled?
- What information is to be shared with the employer?
- Test existing employees—To ensure that your prework criteria are as accurate as possible, test it on employees who already hold the jobs you have selected for prework screening. Use these results to correct any problems before job applicants are tested.
- Review outcome and follow-up data—You should receive periodic updates from your physical therapist on the pass/fail rates, the test items most frequently failed and any information regarding significant differences in fail rates based on gender, age or ethnic groups. Review this information to modify the testing process if necessary. Consider tracking your work-related injury costs before and after starting the prework screening program. This can help your organization decide whether or not to continue or expand the program.
Hiring Considerations for Prework Screening Providers
Retaining the services of a qualified prework screening provider is the most costly element of your prework training program. It is also one of the most crucial element for an effective program. When selecting a screening provider, convenience will certainly be a factor, but it shouldn’t be the only factor. You should pick a provider who:
Some questions you should ask the screening provider include:
- Is properly trained and experienced in administering prework screening and exam design methods
- Understands the workers’ compensation system
- Is a timely and skilled communicator
- Is in close proximity to your job site(s)
- Has demonstrated experience in both occupational and non-occupational therapy treatment
- Do you have experience in conducting prework screening exams and functional job analyses? You may ask for written examples.
- Are you knowledgeable about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission legally influence the appropriate administration of prework screening exams? For more information about ADA visit www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/preemp.html.
- Are you willing to visit our workplace to observe, review, confirm and identify the essential job tasks and the related physical demands of those tasks in preparation for designing reliable test procedures?
- Can you provide screening exams at multiple locations if needed?
- What test orientation materials do you provide to the job candidates before undergoing a prework screen? You may ask for written examples.
- Are you prepared to offer test accommodations to job candidates if needed/requested?
- Have you accommodated a job candidate during a prework test? If so, please cite examples of accommodations you have made.
- How do you communicate the results of the prework screen?
- What is the cost to develop both the exam criteria and administration of each prework screening test? What is the cost to complete functional job descriptions? What is the estimated time to conduct the exam?
- Describe your testing methods and reporting format (make sure these methods are compatible with the needs of your organization).
- Do you have written medical standards and criteria defining when to start and stop a test for safety reasons related to the job candidate? Can you provide a copy of these?
- How do you handle a potential injury during testing? Cite examples.
Visit the prework screening section of EMC’s website for online training, safety program templates, tech sheets, a screening guide and other resources to help you implement an effective prework training program for your organization.