Physical Abilities Testing (PAT)

Definition - What does Physical Abilities Testing (PAT) mean?

Physical abilities testing is a process used to evaluate an employee’s fitness to perform specific job-related tasks. A physical abilities test (PAT) is used to assess whether or not a specific employee possesses the strength, stamina, and flexibility to meet the manual needs of a job. The types of tests administered and the minimum requirements for passage are determined by the needs of the particular job.

Examples of physical abilities tests include assessments of an employee’s cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, balance, or muscular power. Physical abilities tests are usually administered by a qualified medical professional such as a physical therapist. Testing may be performed before or after a job offer has been made. A physical abilities test may also be ordered before a return to work when an employee has undergone treatment for an injury or otherwise been unable to perform work functions.

WorkplaceTesting explains Physical Abilities Testing (PAT)

Physical abilities testing (PAT) helps employers to ensure that an employee selected for a particular job can perform the tasks required for that job and to do so safely. Because these tests may limit the ability of some employees to perform specific jobs, or prevent some job applicants from being hired, it is important that any test administered measure only those physical abilities necessary for the performance of the job’s tasks.

For instance, a PAT that measured the employee’s ability to lift heavy weights would be inappropriate for a job that did not involve lifting. Each PAT must be tailored to measure only those tasks essential to the job description. The PAT plan for a particular job should be prepared by qualified professionals. The employer’s physical demands analysis (PDA) for a job should include each of the tasks for which physical abilities testing will be required. In addition, the American with Disabilities Act may limit the use and application of physical abilities testing in the workplace. In particular, a medical exam cannot be administered to a job candidate prior to the making of a job offer. Thus pre-employment physical abilities testing must be designed in such a way as to not violate this restriction.


When administered properly, a physical abilities test can help an employer match employees to a job that are suitable for their physical capacities. Assuring compatibility between the employee and the job’s essential functions enhances workplace and individual worker safety.

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