Are Post-Offer, Pre-Work Screens Effective?
As an ergonomist, I am often asked what my opinion is on post-offer, pre-work (POPW) screens for new hires. My first response is to ask why they are asking that question. The normal answer is because they have a injury rate higher than what they’d like and wonder if it’s related to their workers’ fitness for work. I have several follow up questions that help me understand the root cause of their injuries. As much as possible work should be designed so that the majority of the population can perform the job. This is becoming more and more important and imperative to organizations due to the aging workforce.
Granted, there will always be some jobs that are physically demanding. In those instances I have no objection to POPW as long as the job and workflow have been optimized for worker well-being. POPW can be very effective to screen new hires as well as to assist in return-to-work cases when they are designed appropriately. A precise physical demands analysis (PDA) of the job provides the basis for the POPW. In addition the POPW has to follow the law, i.e. EEOC and ADA guidelines. Failing to follow the law and establish a screen that accurately reflects the job tasks is imperative to its success. POPW are best suited for jobs in which physical tasks are performed intermittently instead of repetitively as it is very hard to replicate repetition accurately in a short “snap-shot” period of testing time.
Early on in my career as an industrial physical therapist I created several POPW for various companies and industries. On average the percentage of new hires that failed the POPW for physical reasons was relatively small, about 5%. Instead the POPW found many more people with undiagnosed high blood pressure. Those people were then sent to their physician for treatment and were allowed to retake the POPW after their blood pressure was under control.
In summary, POPW can benefit companies by making it less likely that they will hire a person who is easily susceptible to injury, can help detect pre-existing injuries and protect the employer against future inappropriate injury claims and assist them in placing workers in jobs that match their abilities. They are no replacement for having a work environment, workflow and equipment/tools that fit their workers. A poorly designed job will result in injuries no matter who is performing the job.