Employees who have been on the job for just a month have more than three times the risk for a lost-time injury than workers with over one year of of experience. This potential for injury puts both these workers and the company at risk. Fit-for-Work testing can help mitigate that risk.
Employers use Fit-for-Work testing to ensure their workers can safely do their assigned jobs. It can follow a job offer or be requested when an employee returns to work after a severe injury or illness. An employer with first-hand knowledge of an employee's existing medical condition can also ask for Fit-for-Work testing if they have observed concerning behaviors. These behaviors must relate to the performance of the employee's job duties, and supervisors must be rationally and reasonably sure those concerns relate to the medical condition.
The Comprehensive Health Interview is one of the first steps in Fit-for-Work testing. It ensures the worker can safely do the physical challenges that are part of the Fit-for-Work test as well as the physical challenges of the job itself.
Legal Limitations and Guidelines
While Fit-for-Work testing can be a little intimidating, it is essential to remember why the employer requires the test to keep you, and everyone around you, safe.
- Tests may follow a job offer or be utilized to ensure the safety of an employee returning to work following illness or injury
- Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities
- The same tests must be given to all employees working the same job to ensure fairness
- Any physical fitness or agility tests must only test for items required to perform the job's essential duties
- The initial job description must contain the essential job duties for which physical exams are testing
- If the position doesn't have a job description, the applicant must be made aware of the physical requirements before applying
- Tests cannot check for physiological responses
- All test results must be kept confidential
- In an effort to maintain confidentiality, employers must maintain testing records separately from other employment-related records
- Test locations must be accessible, and candidates with disabilities must receive reasonable accommodation to take the test
Physical Abilities and Limitations
Examiners are usually provided with a list of each job's physical and other requirements before the examination, so they know to focus on those specific aspects.
The examiner will likely start the interview process with some general questions about your physical ability to do the job. They may ask if any medical reasons will prevent you from doing the job and if you have physical limitations that prevent you from doing certain kinds of work. You must provide proof of either of these if asked.
If the job requirements warrant, you will undergo physical tests that assess your ability to lift a specific weight. However, the examiner may also ask you directly how much weight you can lift and carry and if there are any medical limitations on the amount of weight you can safely lift or carry.
It's a good idea to bring a list of prescription medications, as well as any over-the-counter (OTC) medications, that you are taking, and the reasons you take them. The examiner will ask you about both prescription and OTC medications. You will also want to identify any physical aids you need, such as eyeglasses.
During the interview, the examiner will ask you questions about your medical history. In particular, they will be interested in any previous surgeries you've had that may impact your ability to do the work required of you. This information will include the type, date and the reasons for the surgery. They will also ask questions about how well and how quickly you healed following the surgery. If you have any lingering effects such as pain or weakness from the surgery, you should let the examiner know. Your honesty in the interview will help ensure your safety on the job.
Past and Present Injuries
The examiner will also ask questions about any other previous or existing injuries or weaknesses you may have. Questions will focus on the nature and reasons for the injury and any medications you may still be taking for it. They'll want to know when the injury occurred, if it was in the past, and if you still experience any weakness or repercussions from it.
They may also ask if you were hurt on the job and if you filed a worker's compensation claim for the injury. Finally, the examiner needs to know if anything will affect the physical testing, and if you require any accommodations for the injury or condition to perform the job's essential duties.
Existing or Previous Conditions and Diseases
Some, though not all, interviewers will ask you to fill out a questionnaire detailing any illnesses, diseases or injuries you may have. Others will ask you a series of similar questions and record your responses.
Again, the conditions the interviewer is interested in will be related, either directly or indirectly, to your specific job requirements. These conditions could include:
Questions about Disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Seizures or epilepsy
- Immune disorders
Questions about Injury and Chronic Pain
- Herniated Disc
- Knee injury
- Back injury
- Shoulder injury
- Arm/hand injury
- Neck injury or pain
- Hernia or rupture
- Broken bones
- Immobility of weight-bearing joints including ankles, hips and knees
Questions about Chronic Conditions
- Wrist issues, including carpal tunnel syndrome
- Repetitive motion issues
- Severe headaches
Know that ultimately, the testing is for your safety
Think of the Fit-for-Work Testing interview as an opportunity to discuss your fitness to perform the job safely and to discuss any accommodations you may need.