Pre-employment Functional Assessments – are they important?

By on October 8, 2021

Coverforce Insurance Broking (CMPA Associate Members since 2010) reports on the importance of conducting timely and accurate functional assessments.

Musculoskeletal injuries and disorders continue to be the leading Work Health & Safety (WHS) challenge for many industries and are associated with long-term, costly impacts for both employers and employees.

Implementing Pre-employment Functional Assessments (PEFAs) in the recruitment process can help to reduce the likelihood and severity of work-related injuries by improving the chances of hiring the most suitable employees for the physical requirements of a role.

According to Safe Work Australia, work-related injury and disease costs the Australian economy $61.8 billion, with musculoskeletal injuries and disorders accounting for 45% of this economic burden ¹.

Should an employee sustain a work-related injury, a business could face substantial direct and indirect costs in the form of lost productivity, replacement wages, medical costs, and workers compensation premiums.

If businesses are to build an effective risk mitigation strategy and reduce the incidence of work-related injuries and their associated costs, it can be crucial to implement WHS programs that go beyond simple manual handling training.

What are PEFAs?

PEFAs are a series of tests used by employers to help determine whether a potential candidate has the physical capabilities to perform the role they are applying for without undue risk to themselves or others.

Functional assessments can be completed for several reasons including during the recruitment screening process, when an existing employee is looking to move roles within the same business or as part of fitness testing for employees returning to work following an injury or illness.

PEFAs are performed by an allied health professional such as a physiotherapist, accredited exercise physiologist or an occupational therapist. The tests include physical screening, fitness tests, job-specific functional capacity assessments, manual handling tasks and other practice-based tests.

What are the benefits of PEFAs?

A well designed PEFA has several benefits for businesses, particularly those in industries where manual labour is involved or where work-related injuries are more common.

  • Assist employers to meet their Occupational Health and Safety legal requirements and duty of care to employees.
  • Businesses can better identify workplace risks, poor functional techniques or incorrect manual handling practices and improve any discrepancies.
  • Increased productivity by identifying whether a candidate has the functional and physical capacity to perform a role safely and effectively
  • PEFAs can uncover medical or functional conditions that an employee may not be aware of and that would have otherwise gone undetected
  • Businesses can experience a reduction in workplace injuries and therefore lower absence rates, workers compensation claims and insurance costs.
  • Encourages an overall safer work environment.
  • Helps to identify appropriate support strategies for individuals with specific functional deficits and needs.
  • Better job matching for candidates to prospective roles which increases the chance of businesses hiring the right candidate for the role.
  • PEFAS can be used as an effective baseline test for further health monitoring.
  • Can help to determine whether an employee still has the physical and functional capacity to perform their role safely following a long absence – regardless of whether an injury was involved.

Helps to improve business-employee relationship through a shared understanding of best work practices. An injury prevention program also shows employees that the business cares about their wellbeing.

How Coverforce can help

Coverforce Workplace Services (CWS) can conduct timely and accurate functional assessments. To find out more about how your business can benefit from PEFAs, contact CWS on (02) 9098 5500.

Our expert team of brokers are here to help protect the financial future of your business. For personalised risk advice and tailored, cost-effective insurance solutions for your business, contact your local Coverforce office or call 1 3000 COVER.

The information provided in this article is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. If you require advice that is tailored to your specific business or individual circumstances, please contact Coverforce directly.

REFERENCES

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/statistics-and-research/statistics/cost-injury-and-illness/cost-injury-and-illness-statistics

https://www.jobfitsystem.com/wp-content/uploads/Legge_Pre-Employment-Research-Review_EA_2004.pdf

https://www.kinnect.com.au/services/pre-employment-functional-assessments/

CMPA Health Assessment Pack (including Functional Assessments and Silica).

Our industry requires a certain level of fitness and health before commencing work and it is essential that this level is maintained. Furthermore, owners and managers require a clear and consistent method of ensuring that their operations are not causing illness in their employees. It is with this in mind that the CMPA has established pre-employment, periodic, exit health assessments, practical functional assessment test and a new silica – specific health assessment. To support these assessments, guidance material specifically for the Medical Practitioner and Physiotherapists has been updated.

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