Fitness-to-Work Testing: What It Is, And Why It’s A Critical Piece To Establishing A Strong Health and Safety Culture

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5 September 2023

Fitness-to-Work Testing: What It Is, And Why It’s A Critical Piece To Establishing A Strong Health and Safety Culture

Fitness-to-Work testing is a medical assessment done when an employer wishes to confirm that an employee can safely do a specific job duty or task. The testing is typically performed by a healthcare provider who will evaluate the testing participant on their overall physical function and health status, to determine if they have the necessary strength and conditioning to perform the critical work tasks involved in their role.

What's Involved in a Fitness-to-Work Test?

Fitness-to-Work testing will typically involve the following components:

Collection of vitals

This component includes collecting the testing participant's vitals such as blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, height, and weight. This component is an important safety measure during testing to ensure the individual is not exhibiting any immediate safety concerns or red flags.

Comprehensive health interview

This component focuses on understanding the testing participant’s overall health and medical status in order to rule out any serious medical conditions or illnesses that could pose a risk to them while performing their work tasks, or while completing the physical fitness component of their Fitness-to-Work test.

Comprehensive musculoskeletal examination

This component involves examining the testing participant from head-to-toe and evaluating their muscles, joints and connective tissue (such as ligaments and tendons) to ensure they are all functioning properly. Any findings identified during the examination can play a role in recommendations for workplace modifications or accommodations that might be suitable for the individual.

Physical fitness evaluation

This evaluation targets an individual's overall strength and cardiovascular capabilities, relative to the physical demands of their role. Testing participants will complete various tasks (such as lifting and carrying) in different positions or scenarios, to allow the evaluator to get a sense of their overall lifting technique, strength and conditioning capabilities

What Are The Next Steps After The Test?

Once testing is completed, the evaluator will make a fitness determination on the status of the testing participant based on the information collected and observed. Typically, this takes the form of one of three outcomes:

1. Fit — The testing participant is able to safely perform the required work tasks of their job role.

2. Unfit — The testing participant is not able to safely perform the required work tasks involved in their job role.

3. Fit with limitations — The testing participant is able to perform most of the required work tasks of their job role, but they do require some form of accommodation or restriction for specific work tasks.

Why Is Fitness-to-Work Testing Important For Establishing A Strong Health and Safety Culture?

A strong health and safety culture in an organization isn’t just about having low incident or injury frequency rates; it’s about instilling a feeling of comfort and security in all workers so they know their organization is doing everything in their power to be able to keep their employees safe while they are at work.

Lagging Indicators

Most health and safety metrics look at what are called “lagging indicators,” meaning you are focusing on things that have already occurred. Examples of these lagging indicators include:

Leading Indicators

By implementing strategies that focus more on “leading indicators,” an organization can shift the focus to prevention and elimination of the things that lagging indicators typically track (injuries, lost productivity, compensation costs, etc.). Leading indicators focus on several things including:

  • Percentage of your workforce with proper safety training and education
  • The satisfaction level of your workforce with current safety standards
  • Attendance rates at safety meetings/toolbox meetings
  • Frequency of safety checks/audits completed

How Does Fitness-to-Work Testing Benefit Employers?

Fitness-to-Work testing acts as a tool for employers to better understand their workforce’s physical capabilities and potential limitations. This creates an opportunity for employers to act in a proactive manner and to ensure their workers are in positions that are best suited to their physical and mental capabilities. It also allows employers to appropriately accommodate potential disabilities, limitations or impairments that might otherwise put the worker or their co-workers at risk of an incident or injury occurring.

How Does Fitness-to-Work Testing Benefit Employees?

From an employee perspective, Fitness-to-Work testing can put workers' minds at ease, as they have confirmation that their co-workers have been evaluated and are capable of completing their work tasks without putting anyone at risk. This peace of mind can go a long way in elevating an organization’s work satisfaction level, which can indirectly impact lagging indicators in a positive manner.

Research has shown that employee satisfaction has a significant positive effect on accident cost savings, and occupational safety performance has a significant positive effect on employee satisfaction, and — by extension — accident cost savings. This positive feedback cycle will start to “self-propel” a strong safety culture in the minds of employees, thereby decreasing incident rates, lost workdays and compensation costs.

Subject matter experts (SMEs) offer authority in specialized areas. They may have special certifications, degrees, or doctorates as well as unique experience or knowledge in particular industries or business settings. SureHire has assembled some of the industry's top advisors to give you the 411 on the latest trends, topics, and information related to workplace testing. Learn more about this month's SME author, Dean McDougall.

Looking for a Fitness-to-Work testing provider? SureHire Inc. offers quality testing services in the U.S. through NaviSure Health. Learn more about Fitness-to-Work testing and check out today to speak to a member of the SureHire team, find a location, or book an appointment.