Physical Ability Testing & Validation Services

Back 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 the workplace.

Claims by persons who lack strength due to weakness have no legal entitlement to a job -- even under the ADA.

Strength 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 Project.

Once the program has been developed MED-TOX personnel can assist in implementing the testing program and provide on-going testing services if needed.

Work Simulation Tests for Police, Deputy Sheriffs, Firefighters and other Occupations

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" situation.

Vision Validation Services

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.

Physical Abilities & Working Conditions Analysis

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.

Occupational Medical Services

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.

Occupational medical 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.