Employment Physicals offer factual, objective reference points regarding an employee’s physical capabilities to perform the job requirements of a particular occupation. These occupational health exams are required by various industries to ensure the safety of the staff, coworkers, clients, and the public.
In addition to meeting regulatory requirements, workplace physicals help HR departments:
These challenges cut across many industries and companies of all sizes. To maximize success in hiring and retaining staff, employers often require employment physicals.
What is a Workplace Physical?
In a workplace physical, potential employees are tested to see whether they can comply with the physical requirements of a potential job, with or without accommodation. Depending on the industry, they may be required to demonstrate physical ability (lifting, carrying, etc.), stamina, endurance, or mental endurance under physical strain.
Many industries have their own specific requirements, but all workplace physicals should follow legal guidelines to ensure that they remain in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination in hiring. Most importantly:
To ensure compliance with the ADA, it is crucial that the employer remembers the following points:
Employment physicals are often central to the hiring process and are typically taken after a conditional offer of employment is extended. Furthermore, any person that becomes injured while employed may be asked to take another employment physical before returning to their job to ensure that they are still able to perform the physical requirements of the occupation.
Which Industries Require Physicals?
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Physicals
The DOT Physical is a special type of workplace physical exam that is required for all commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) dictates the requirements for this special physical exam. All commercial drivers must obtain and keep current a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (ME Certificate).
DOT physical exams include vision and hearing tests, blood test and urinalysis, which is part of drug and alcohol testing. This test can only be conducted by a licensed medical examiner that’s listed on the FMCSA national registry. The DOT medical exam must be taken by CDL drivers every two years at a minimum. The medical examiner, in his or her discretion, may issue a certificate that expires in less than two years if they deem it necessary to monitor a health condition more frequently, such as high blood pressure.
The FMCSA also provides answers to common questions about medical requirements and DOT physicals.
How is Employee Information Protected?
One of the biggest challenges of requiring occupational health screenings such as pre-employment physicals is how the associated sensitive health data, commonly referred to as “Personally Identifiable Information”, or “PII”, is used and protected.
Protecting PII in Workplace Physicals
It is always a best practice for an employer to request authorizations from employees that permit the health care provider to share the results of their physicals with the employer. In some circumstances, a health care provider is permitted to share the data even without authorization from the employee, but only if the workplace demonstrates a duty that they have the authorization of a national or state law to request and keep these records.
Once an employment physical is performed by a health professional, the data should be stored securely in compliance with OSHA and state laws that govern the protection of personally identifiable information.