The Importance of Implementing an Essential Functions Test
Did you know that majority of workplace injuries are related to musculoskeletal strains and sprains? There are a few programs that you can put in place to address this exposure such as engineering out hazards, claims management, case management, safety training, return to work programs and surveillance. While these programs are effective, there’s no substitute for hiring the "right" candidate.
Part of the hiring process should include an essential functions test (EFT) to ensure the candidate can perform the essential functions of the job position based on the job description. EFTs are significantly different than pre-employment physical exams. Pre-employment physical exams are part of the EFT process, but it’s only the beginning. The pre-employment physical exam assesses the candidate's medical condition or overall health to include height, weight, medical history, blood pressure, respiratory rate, pulse, etc. This information is important to note, but may not be used as part of the hiring practice. However, this information does indicate whether the potential employee can perform the job duties.
Most EFTs include a physical exam, but they also include a gross musculoskeletal exam to include range of motion and changing body positions (stooping, bending, reaching overhead). The EFT then assesses the candidate's ability to perform physical tasks such as walking upstairs, capacity to lift, fine motor skills, overhead work, etc. The EFT must accurately test for job tasks based on the job position for which the candidate is being hired. For example, a fire department may require candidates to carry a 100 lbs. mannequin up a flight of stairs. However, a manufacturing company may require candidates to lift a 20 lbs. box from waist height to chest height. Understand, every company and position’s requirement are different – and critical to the test.
If a candidate fails to safely perform the essential functions of the position, then the job may be rescinded. It’s important to use valid job descriptions that clearly and explicitly outline the physical demands and job tasks for the position you’re testing candidates against. If done correctly, EFTs can improve the hiring process, head off musculoskeletal injuries and reduce workers’ compensation claims in the long run.
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