The price of on-the-job injuries are physically, emotionally and financially taxing. The injured worker faces pain and uncertainty. Your company faces plummeting team morale and the cost of the workers’ compensation claim. While you may have workers’ compensation insurance to help cover the financial strain of the accident, by the time the claim is finalized, OSHA estimates your company will likely pay 1 to 4.5 times more than the insurance company will. Not to mention, your future insurance costs will most likely increase.
Traditionally, workers’ compensation departments have tried to prevent injuries by reducing hazards. These methods have run the gambit from pre-work stretching and job-site safety talks to large investments in the latest and greatest PPE. However, the best way to reduce injuries (not to mention employee turnover and unnecessary hiring costs) is by ensuring your new hires are physically capable of performing the job in the first place.
Enter the post-offer employment test, called POET for short. POET ensures newly hired employees can perform the essential job functions of the position. The process may also help employers place their employees in positions they are better suited for. It can also help determine reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants or limit liability for work-related injuries and illnesses. Finally, and most importantly, it can promote workplace safety.
IS POET RIGHT FOR YOUR COMPANY?
Whether you are already having issues with employee injuries on the job or you’re expecting a surge of new hires, POET can help your company keep the team safe. If your company deals with any of the following issues, POET may be a great fit:
- A high injury rate among new employees or recently transferred employees
- A high rate of re-injury, especially if you have already tried introducing injury prevention techniques like stretching and wellness
- A high turnover rate amongst your new employees
- Recruiting for positions with physically demanding job requirements
- Hiring for ramp-ups
- Increasing the headcount for teams
If you’re not sure what POET will look like in practice, here’s a quick review of the standard procedures. Your POET provider conducts the process in a hierarchical manner. This process often begins with a drug screen or other ancillary test, followed by a medical history questionnaire and physical examination. The test concludes with a physical abilities test. If one of the preliminary tests are not passed, subsequent tests should not be administered.
- After the conditional employee has completed any prior required tests (drug screen, background check, etc.), they will complete a medical and health history questionnaire. This will be completed by the individual before the medical exam and reviewed with them by the test facilitator.
- During the medical exam, the medical provider will determine if the conditional employee is physically qualified to perform the essential functions of the job. The doctor compares the individual’s medical status with the job’s physical demands statement already established for the position.
- The process culminates with the physical abilities test (which ideally mimics the actual job duties to be performed) to ensure the employee is capable of doing the job.
- A pass or fail report is given to the employer. The vendor maintains all other records as a medical file.
The POET test is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines, making it completely legal when it is performed in a standardized setting. That said, constructing program compliance is important. POET programs are regulated by the ADA, so it’s important to keep the following regulations in mind:
- POET will take place during the interval between the extension of the job offer and the start of work. Once an individual has successfully passed the pre-offer phase and you decide to extend an offer, you can implement the POET process to ensure the candidate can perform the essential job functions of the position he/she is being offered.
- A system for offering and making reasonable accommodations for test completion should be in place and be consistent with your organization’s current system. The individual’s potential need for leave of treatment or incapacitation related to a disability cannot be discussed.
- Information regarding medical conditions or the history of a conditional employee must be maintained in a separate file as a confidential medical report.
- During the pre-offer phase, do not ask if the conditional employee has a disability. Do not have the individual participate in a medical examination.
- In most cases during the pre-offer phase, you should not ask about the worker’s compensation history. There are some exceptions, so consult your legal counsel to stay within the boundaries of the ADA, EEOC, and other state and local requirements.
- All successful individuals in the same job category must complete the same POET process.
If POET makes sense for your company, your next task is developing the program.
First, you’ll want to determine the specific locations, departments and/or job classes that are producing the most severe injuries within your organization. It’s best practice to analyze your current data and identify specific positions and job classes with physical requirements that may warrant post-offer employment testing.
Once you have determined which jobs the POET makes sense for, prepare a written statement for each position. Make sure your written statements detail the physical demands of the job along with essential functions. These statements can be used both at the time of interview to articulate the job duties to the employee as well as during the POET exam to help accurately reflect the demands of each position. Once you have nailed these down, you can develop the POET testing procedures.
Next, you’ll want to find a POET provider to administer the program. It’s important to select a partner that is trustworthy and accessible. Ask the POET medical provider to visit your facility so they can understand your company and the types of jobs being performed. If this isn’t possible, provide detailed job descriptions with photos or video for reference.
From here, work with your POET medical provider to design the protocol. This process should start with the simplest test and proceed to the most difficult. With your POET medical provider, develop a physical abilities test that is tailored to the type of work being performed by your employees.
If you are working within a union environment, discuss this post-offer employment testing program with the union prior to developing and implementing the program to ensure they buy into the program. Developing the program wisely on the forefront makes it more effective for everyone.
A Safer Workplace
Post-offer employment testing is an excellent way to reduce costs associated with employee injury and turnover for many organizations. At the end of the day we all want a safer, more effective workplace with a healthier team.
If POET sounds like a useful program for your company, you’ll want to keep these keys for success in mind:
- Ensure you have corporate commitment and overall approval before getting started.
- Analyze the costs and benefits of POET to your organization, and track these throughout the lifetime of the project.
- Maintain communication with conditional employees throughout the entire interview, testing and hiring process.
- Ensure testing standards are job-specific, location-specific and remain current.
- Use a credible provider to conduct the POET testing.
- Maintain consistency and keep testing centralized and under one vendor whenever possible.
- Observe your on-the-job injury and turnover rates to ensure POET testing is working for your company and job functions.
Laws may vary significantly by state, so any and all information contained within this article is not intended to constitute legal advice. Above all else, ensure you are compliant when implementing the POET program within your organization. Accordingly, you should consult with your own attorneys when developing programs and policies.
These guidelines are provided courtesy of Zurich Insurance Company.