Pre-Employment Physical Exam

What is a Pre-Employment Physical

Understanding the Value of Pre-Employment Physicals

In the modern employment landscape, ensuring the safety, efficiency, and well-being of employees is paramount. A pre-employment physical is a crucial step in this process. This examination is designed to assess a potential employee’s health status, medical history, and physical capabilities to determine their suitability for a specific job role.

These physicals are generally facilitated at dedicated facilities, such as occupational health centers or urgent care clinics, with the latter offering a convenient and efficient avenue for such evaluations.

Did you know that 53% of job applications contain less than accurate information, according to the Society of Human Resources Management? The Wall Street Journal reports that 34% of job applications contain blatant lies about the applicant’s ability to perform essential job functions.

Even more startling – did you know employers lose more than 79% of negligent hiring cases, according to Fortune? Human Resources Management says the typical settlement of a negligent hiring lawsuit is roughly $1,000,000, but verdicts have been as high as $40 million.

The bottom line is that employers need to carefully and thoroughly screen employees, especially if they are in a line of work like driving in which their carelessness or health could negatively impact public safety. Pre-employment physical exams have been shown to reduce on-the-job injuries, take much of the guesswork out of knowing how a job candidate will perform essential duties, and ultimately save companies money.

Requiring Pre-Employment Physicals Is Good Business

Background checks and drug testing are common requirements for employment – why not a physical exam as well? Requiring pre-employment physical exams promotes a culture of on-the-job safety and concern for employee well-being. If your organization believes in leading by example or that positive change trickles down, requiring pre-employment physicals demonstrates a commitment to putting safety and health ahead of profits. Your employees may be more likely to behave with a proactive concern for the work environment in mind.

Your company’s legal team can expound on the legal benefits of requiring these health screenings. There may be better terms for your worker’s comp insurance if pre-employment physicals are mandated.

Types of Pre-Employment Physicals

Some employers only require a drug test or a Tuberculosis test; however, other employers go beyond those minimums. Often, employers seeking temps or seasonal employees will opt for more basic physical exams. Regular, long-term employees usually receive a more thorough examination, though. Occupational physical exams tend to fall into four categories:

  • Basic (light duty)
  • Standard pre-employment
  • Department of Transportation (for commercial drivers)
  • Mimicking Department of Transportation physicals (the most thorough pre-employment physical exam, but not mandated by law like official DOT physicals are)

Organizations with unique needs can ensure their hires are screened per their own requirements. For example, the physical for an astronaut to go into space would have highly specific needs detailed to NASA’s specifications.

What Does a Pre-Employment Physical Consist of?

For the most part, a standard pre-employment physical is going to be like any other physical exam the employee may have had in the past. The exams generally include:

  • Understanding the applicant’s work and medical history, including past surgeries and illnesses, family medical history, reviewing any chronic conditions the applicant may have, current medications being taken, etc.
  • An actual inspection of the physical body (height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, listening to the lungs and heart, looking in the ears, mouth, and throat, checking reflexes, hernias, and skin abnormalities, feeling the belly area for abnormalities, range of motion)
  • Vision test
  • Hearing test
  • Optional: drug test, urinalysis, bloodwork, TB test

Jobs that are more labor intensive, such as law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, warehouse, assembly line, movers, etc., may also include physical fitness or agility assessments with the pre-employment physical. These assessments often look at the applicant’s ability to do heavy lifting but may also include things like running or jumping. Due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), not all employers can mandate agility or fitness prerequisites, so be sure to confirm with your legal council first.

Pre-Employment Physicals Help Reduce Liability

Pre-employment physicals limit the liability that companies face in their day-to-day operations. Here are two examples:

  • A railroad employee must be able to lift up to 50 pounds and crawl up and down ladders several times per day. The applicant is young with a healthy BMI (body mass index) and appears otherwise fit and agile. Upon being hired, it turns out that the applicant has severe scoliosis that actually makes him more likely to injure his back during heavy lifting. A pre-employment physical could have detected this in advance, but now your company has an employee who is more likely to get injured and/or injure others.
  • A warehouse employee must reach up high to the top shelf numerous times throughout the day. Again, your applicant appears perfectly capable of doing so. However, upon being hired, the employee collapses while reaching for the top shelf one day. Thousands of dollars in merchandise were destroyed, and another employee was hit by falling boxes and is now injured. A pre-employment physical could have detected that the employee was still recovering from a recent surgery and was not supposed to reach overhead due to her incision location—but she was desperate for money, so she rushed returning to work.

Pre-existing conditions contribute significantly to workplace injuries. This risk can all but be eliminated by adding a pre-employment physical exam to your hiring process.

Pre-Employment Physicals Improve Productivity

Let’s say your company just hired Alex. He had glowing recommendations and an excellent work history. Unfortunately, Alex was recently diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Other employees have noticed he is frequently not on the floor working because he seems to use the restroom a lot. Alex’s medical condition, which is largely treatable with medication and diet, is a distraction that interrupts other staff members and reduces productivity. Conducting a pre-employment physical, in this case, could have helped both Alex and his supervisors understand and manage his condition better so there are no embarrassing moments or lost work time.

When employees are sick and injured, companies lose money. As your company no doubt learned during COVID-19, being understaffed places a significant strain on the employees who are on-site working. And the cycle continues, as overworked employees are more prone to injury and illness. It’s a productivity downward spiral that can largely be prevented by implementing a policy of pre-employment physicals. This organizational shift can also motivate existing employees to take better care of themselves.

Return-to-Work Physicals

Return-to-work physical exams fall under the umbrella of employment physicals. If an injured or sick employee is ready to return to work, a return-to-work physical exam, very similar to the pre-employment physical exam, can be completed. This is another way to protect your staff and assets, reduce liability, and cultivate a work culture of care and safety.

Disabled Employees & Pre-Employment Physicals

There are a few things to know about ADA-protected employees and occupational physical exams:

  • A physical exam can only be conducted after an employee has been hired—it can be a conditional hire, but mere job applicants can not be asked to undergo a physical.
  • ADA-protected employees can only be asked to undergo a physical exam for employment if other employees in the same job are required to do it as well.
  • Physical exam results must not be used to discriminate against disabled employees who are capable of performing the necessary job duties.

Remember that employee medical records are confidential and need to be kept in a different location than their personnel files. Conditional offers of employment can be withdrawn if no reasonable accommodation can be made to assist the ADA-protected person in performing the job duties. Job offers cannot be withdrawn due to fears about future attendance or benefit usage.

Prepare New Hires for Their Physical Exams

Let your new employees know the next step in your on-boarding process is for them to do a pre-employment physical exam at Newport Urgent Care and to have the following ready:

  • Medical history, including dates of past surgeries
  • List of medications, including doses and the prescribing doctor’s contact information
  • Their valid government-issued ID
  • List of allergies, if any
  • Any necessary paperwork that your organization or a governing body, like the Department of Transportation, requires

Why Newport Urgent Care?

Newport Urgent Care is a top-rated leader in local occupational health. We have board-certified doctors with a collective 50 years of occupational medicine experience. We conduct all of the pre-employment physicals on-site and do not require applicants to make appointments. Our convenient hours include evenings and weekends.

Start Screening New Hires at Newport Urgent Care!

Recruiting Times estimates that it costs $40,000 to replace a senior executive, $10,000 for a mid-level employee, and $7,000 for a salary employee. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the usual cost of a poor hiring decision equates to 30% of the first year’s potential earnings. These are huge numbers that should motivate your company to better screen employees by, for example, requiring pre-employment physicals.

Newport Urgent Care can help your company make all the necessary arrangements to get this policy in place. We are located at 1000 Bristol St N #1b, Newport Beach, CA 92660. Call us at (949) 752-6300 to learn more about how we can partner with your organization to be more safe, productive, and successful.

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