Preventing injury with pre-employment assessments

The delivery of occupational health and safety services is changing rapidly. There is a far greater focus on injury prevention, and using new and available technologies to improve service, reduce unnecessary costs and achieve better health outcomes for both the employer and employee.

For some time employers, particularly those with traditionally high levels of workplace injury, have arranged for potential employees to undertake a pre-employment assessment to ensure that their physiological and psychological capacities are suitable for the work environment. More and more organisations are using a pre-employment assessment to reduce the risk of injury post-employment, particularly in high risk industries like mining and construction.

The potential impact of work-related injuries, and the resulting labour replacement costs from mismatched employees and job demands all provide a persuasive case for the utilisation of pre-employment assessments. Research shows that screened hires are more likely to have a lower incidence of injury, lower absence rate due to injury and lower medical costs resulting from injury.1,2

While there are significant benefits from a pre-employment assessment, there continues to be areas for improvement in service delivery.

The pre-employment assessment has often been driven by a ‘compliance mentality’ rather than one where the employer is focused on using the data captured from the assessment to proactively mitigate against people health risks or drive risk management strategy within their organisation.

The objective of pre-employment assessments has traditionally been to ensure that prospective employees can perform their jobs safely without placing co-workers or themselves at risk. Despite this focused goal, pre-employment testing often yields findings that are inconsistent, of poor quality or irrelevant to the job role the candidate is being screened against. The required follow-up or further testing for these findings cause delays to employment, results in the inappropriate rejection of a candidate, diverts resources, and causes unnecessary expense for the consumer.

The concept of a ‘one size fits all’ generic pre-employment assessment is common and appealing. However this type of assessment does not necessarily align with Anti-Discrimination legislation which requires that pre-employment assessment accurately assesses the inherent physical requirements of the job.

The increased level of interest in pre-employment assessments at the consumer level has increased the number of service providers and competition for market share. In a positive for the industry, this change has driven investment and innovation particularly in the development of valid and reliable assessment tools, and the integration of these tools into the hiring process.

A continued focus on injury prevention and utilisation of pre-employment assessments will only contribute to further investment in product development and hopefully as a result a lower incidence of workplace injury

1. Gassoway, J. & Flory, V., 2000, Prework screen: Is it helpful in reducing injuries and costs? Work. 15(2), 101-106.
2. Nassau, D.W., 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.

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