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Over the next several Newsletters we will be examining the importance and role of "testing" workers during various stages in their career path.
In this edition, we will look at the Employment Test's role in screening candidates in the post-offer/pre-employment portion of the hiring process.
The next installment will examine the use and benefits of the Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE). The FCE is used to determine if an injured worker is recovered enough to return to work and, if they are not, how to identify in what areas of performance they are still deficient.
The finale of this series will be devoted to Work Capacity Evaluations or Work Tolerance Screenings. Designing strategies for returning an injured worker back to their job is where the Ergonomist may make a vital contribution to the process of returning the worker to the organization in a safe, effective and mutually beneficial way.
THE E.T.: Another Dimension to Worker Safety
By: Vic Zuccarello, OTR/L, C.E.E.S., C.E.A.S. II, ABDA
Employment Tests (ET's), or Functional Employment Tests, or Preplacement Tests are used to match physical capabilities of prospective new hires with the physical demands of a specific job. These jobs are usually in heavy industrial environments, but testing has also proven beneficial to workers and employers in jobs that contain the potential for cumulative trauma injuries such as neck pain, rotator cuff or carpal tunnel syndrome. ET's performed as Post-Offer/Pre-employment Tests, include assessment of the ability to perform the physical tasks required by a job's essential functions, including musculoskeletal status, and in some cases screening for pre-existing peripheral neuropathies such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
There are three basic steps involved in the development of an Employment Test program: Identifying problem jobs; conducting a physical demands analysis; and implementation.
The first step in implementing a testing program is assisting the employer in the identification of problem jobs – the jobs in which most of their work-related injuries occur. To identify those jobs, an employer analyzes their last three years of injury statistics for frequency and severity of injuries.
In the second step, the ET provider performs a physical demands analysis of each job. Four criteria should be identified through the physical demands analysis: the job's basic purpose in the organization, the job's essential functions, the physical demands associated with each function, and the physical demand level (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 1991, EEOC, 1992).
Once the employer approves the physical demands analysis document and the test is developed from the information that was collected about the physical requirements to perform that job, the third step is to initiate testing on any new-hires for the identified problem jobs. The employer would offer the most physically qualified candidates the job, contingent upon the successful completion of the functional employment test with or without reasonable accommodation.
However, if the candidate is unable to meet the established job-related physical demands criteria, the employer could legally withdraw their offer of hire. Such a candidate would also be considered a direct safety threat and at risk of work-related injury. These potential hires would require additional medical assessment and clearance by a physician.
There are definite benefits for the employer in initiating an ET program. Reductions in injury frequency, employee turnover, and injury cost have been achieved in a number of industries 4. It also has the ability to protect well meaning but unfit candidates from being placed in a job that has the potential of injuring them and lowering their quality of life and productive careers.
1. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (1992). Technical Assistance Manual on the Employment Provisions (Title 1) of the Americans With Disabilities Act (2.3a). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
2. Gassoway, J, Flory, V. (2000). Prework Screen: Is it helpful in reducing injuries and costs? Work, 15, 101-106.
3. Nassau, D. (1999). The Effects of Prework Functional Screening on Lowering an Employer's Injury Rate, Medical Costs, and Lost Work Days. Spine, 24(3), 269-274.
4. Reimer, S, Halbrook, B, Dreyfuss, P, Tibiletti, C. (1994). A Novel Approach to Preemployment Worker Fitness Evaluations in a Material-Handling Industry. Spine, 19(18), 2026-2032.
5. US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Adminstration. (1991). Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Indianapolis, Ind: JIST Works.
Vic Zuccarello, OTR/L, C.E.E.S., C.E.A.S. II, ABDA, is Vice President of BIO-ERGONOMICS, INC., an industrial rehabilitation consulting company. Aside from his private practice, Vic has designed and serves as primary instructor for Functional Capacity Evaluation and Employment Testing courses for Back School of Atlanta.
Back School of Atlanta News
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Back School of Atlanta is now looking for co-sponsors for live courses in 2009 and 2010. The courses are targeted to groups including Occupational and Physical Therapists, Safety Professionals, Risk & Claims Managers, Human Resources Professionals, Occupational Medicine Professionals and Nurse Practitioners. For information on co-sponsorship of a course, please contact Back School of Atlanta for details. Otherwise, watch the website for courses scheduled.
The Government Corner
OSHA has a handy e-Tool for Electrical Contractors. Click on the link below and on the website click on the different situations that this industry's workers encounter. Material Handling, Installation and Repair, Prefabrication and supplemental information.
The Solutions for Electrical Contractors - Alliance – is an OSHA Cooperative Program. Between 1999 and 2002, more than 30 percent of all employee compensation claims from the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) were related to ergonomics. This amounted to more than $100 million in claims in just four years.
This *eTool describes common hazards that electrical contractors may encounter and possible solutions for these hazards. This eTool is a product of the OSHA and Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) Alliance. For a general discussion of ergonomic solutions, visit the OSHA Ergonomics page.
Use this link for the complete program.
In the April Issue of the Journal PAIN, researchers Melissa E. Martenson et al, state that intense stress and fear can suppress pain to assist workers in coping with immediate dangers. However, less threatening and prolonged stress will increase the perception of pain. This is called "Stress-induced hyperalgesia". This phenomenon is generated in the higher brain centers and is associated with increased heart rate and increased body temperature. Both of which lead to quicker fatigue and subsequent decrease in performance.
In previous research the occurrence of performance deterioration had been associated with increased errors that in turn lead to more stress. Thus "Stress-induced hyperalgesia" produces a positive feedback loop. The worker will find it difficult to overcome the increased pain due to the perception of stress in their job/life. The role of the ergonomist in helping break this cycle is a crucial one.
Martenson, M. E. Pain Volume 142, Number 3 April 2009 pages 236-244
Did you know…?
That the adult human body requires about 88 pounds of oxygen daily and is 75% water.
Boost Your Ergonomics Consulting Business
The Back School of Atlanta is pleased to announce the launch of a new service - the Certified Professionals listing on our website, for all of our past graduates aimed at helping grow your ergonomics consulting business.
We will list your name and the city and state of your practice/business for one year. We will also include a link which will allow potential clients the ability to email you without seeing your actual email address and, if you choose, your contact phone number. You can also apply to become a Premium listing so that your expanded listing will always appear at the top.
After the first year, there is a quick recertification process to continue your listing on our site as a Certified Ergonomics Professional.
For more information, please click here.
Let us help support you and your business.
Director Back School of Atlanta
Ergo Websites, Ergo Products, gadgets and doodads
PT Ergo Chair
This unique chair has an exclusive suspension system and articulated seat pan that is easy to adjust, is ergonomically correct and very reasonable priced. For more information click here.
"It is human nature to think wisely and act foolishly."
This newsletter produced in association with ERGOCATION, LLC.
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In this issue:
• Back School of Atlanta News
• The Government Corner
• Ergo Science
• Did you know...
• Boost Your Ergonomics Consulting Business
• Ergo Websites, Ergo Products, gadgets and doodads
Upcoming Back School of Atlanta Workshops: LEVEL I: Musculoskeletal Disorders and Ergonomics Certification
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Arlington, TX - June 6 & 7, 2009
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Robert Niklewicz, PT, DHSc, CIE, CEAS
Ronald W. Porter, PT, CEAS
Director, Back School of Atlanta