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Fitness-to-Work Testing and Injury Prevention

Workplace injuries are an inevitable risk that accompanies any occupation, especially those in high-risk industries like construction, transportation, and resource mining. Workplace accidents are not an uncommon occurrence in Canada. In 2014, there were 239,643 lost time claims due to a workplace injury; in the same year, there were 919 deaths as a result of workplace accidents.

There are a number of potential causes of workplace injuries. Overexertion accounts for approximately one-quarter of all workplace injuries. These types of injuries may be a result of excessive bending, twisting, lifting, or climbing, and are highly preventable. Often, they are the result of poor or incorrect technique, or being physically unfit for the task. Apart from the physical and psychological toll on the sufferer, workplace injuries can be extremely costly for employers when one considers both the direct costs (e.g.: WCB claims, raised insurance premiums, etc.) and indirect costs (e.g.: lost time and productivity, replacement hiring and training, etc.). It is in an employer’s best interest to try to mitigate workplace injuries as much as possible.

Reducing the Risk

Everyone at the workplace has a role to play in injury prevention. However, employers have an integral role as leaders in the effort to maintain a safe workplace. Here are some strategies that employers can use to protect their workers and maximize savings of time, money, and resources.

  • Ensure employees receive proper, thorough training. Emphasize the importance of safety at every opportunity, from hiring onward.
  • Monitor employee activity. Know what unsafe behaviour looks like, and stay watchful for it. If employees are acting in an unsafe manner, impose consequences for the behaviour.
  • Hold regular safety meetings. Encourage employees to speak up about potentially unsafe situations.
  • Investigate and document all incidents, both minor and serious. Actively look for ways to increase the safety of your workplace by creating a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Make sure the physical demands of the job are clear to the candidate before hiring. Place workers only in jobs for which they are physically capable.

The Role of Fitness-to-Work Testing

Testing programs that evaluate an individual’s medical (blood pressure), musculoskeletal (head to toe examination along with subjective questionnaire), and critical strength and mobility status can help to reduce the risk of workplace injury by matching the worker’s abilities to the essential tasks of the job. Once these risk factors are identified and eliminated, you can be confident that the candidate will be able to perform his or her duties competently and – above all – safely.

Fitness-to-work testing can be implemented in a variety of circumstances:

  • Prior to the hiring of a new employee for a job with intense physical demands
  • After an employee has returned to work following an injury or medical condition
  • When an employee is transferred to a new position with different demands and working conditions
  • When a worker develops a medical condition that may interfere with his or her performance or safety

Injury prevention is everyone’s responsibility. For an employee’s guide to avoiding injury, click here.

Further Reading