Injuries, Strength Testing and the ADA
In 1994, approximately 1.4 million claims were filed for workers'
compensation in California alone. In fiscal year 1995, workers'
compensation payments cost California businesses $9.9 billion; however,
this figure underestimates the total burden, since only about 60
percent of injured workers receive workers' compensation. Total costs
for work injury and disease in California probably exceed $14 billion,
not including the costs of lost industrial productivity (NIOSH, 1997).
Back injuries constitute about half of these claims.
A significant number of ADA claims against employers are for back
injuries. These claims may be brought by current employees or job
applicants. Since physicians have few means of truly assessing the
functional capacity of workers during the preplacement medical
examinations, employers have little objective information as to whether
the newly hired person is capable of performing strength demanding
tasks or capable of returning to the job.
The ADA permits employers to set production standards and hiring
qualifications. By investing the effort to set production standards and
a policy of hiring the most qualified job applicant, employers can
defend themselves against ADA claims with valid strength testing.
By determining the relationship between strength and job tasks and by
setting a job-related standard, an employer can strength test job
applicants to screen out those with a significant risk of back injury
and persons with serious functional limitations. Persons who perform
lifting tasks that are near their maximum capacity are 300 percent more
likely to experience a disabling back injury than persons who perform
job tasks well below their maximum capability.
By hiring the most qualified applicants (the strongest workers for jobs
requiring high levels of strength), persons at high risk are avoided in
Claims by persons who lack strength due to weakness have no legal
entitlement to a job -- even under the ADA.
Test Validation for New Hires
MED-TOX has performed content, construct, and criterion related
validation studies for more than 60 employers across the US. These
studies have been aimed at determining what strength levels are
required for successful job performance. Once a relationship has been
empirically established between the job and the test(s), a validation
study is prepared as documentation. These studies are critical should
the selection device ever be challenged under EEO laws.
Physical testing can identify persons who cannot perform the job due to
lack of strength or poor conditioning. Persons who lack the necessary
strength to perform lifting tasks, for example, are three times more
likely to suffer a disabling back injury than those who have the needed
strength. One study of steelworkers found annual savings of nine
million dollars in workers' compensation costs after implementing such
a test. Click here for a
description of a Strength Test Validation
Once the program has been developed MED-TOX personnel can assist in
implementing the testing program and provide on-going testing services
Simulation Tests for Police, Deputy Sheriffs, Firefighters and other
For some jobs it makes sense to develop work sample tests and job
simulations for preplacement physical ability testing. This is because
some of the critical elements of the job may have important
environmental factors associated with it such as the turnout gear and
respirators worn by firefighters. Work simulation tests are used by not
only police and fire departments, but also for a wide range of jobs
including security guards, paramedics, equipment mechanics, oil
refinery workers, steel workers, and other physically demanding jobs
where there is a need to have job applicants tested in a "real life"
Some jobs require high
levels of far vision, color vision, peripheral vision, and uncorrected
vision. This is especially true for law enforcement jobs and for
firefighting. Yet setting an appropriate vision requirement can amount
to pure guess work unless the specific job has been studied in some
detail and a validation study has been performed. For a more complete
discussion of these issues see Police Vision Screening.
MED-TOX has performed
physical abilities analysis studies for more than a thousand jobs. The
results of these analysis have been used to defend employers against
state and federal disability/handicap discrimination charges and to
ensure that medical examinations are based on the actual job demands
and environmental hazards associated with the job. For a more detailed
discussion of the MED-TOX approach to linking a job's requirements to
medical screening criteria see Medical Standards.
For more information on using physical ability analysis, click here.
MED-TOX performs a
wide variety of consulting activities in occupational medicine.
Services include physician consultation in toxicology, indoor air,
occupational medical program audits, medical surveillance services,
OSHA regulatory compliance assistance, ADA compliant medical screening
programs and other areas of concern.
audits are highly recommended to assist nonmedical management
understand the degree towhich provider physicians are assessing various
medical conditions on the basis of state-of-the art medical evidence.
Contact MED-TOX for
more information about these services.