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What goes into a great physical abilities testing program?

You’re trying to save time and money, but you want to make sure your candidate is capable of doing physically demanding work. So you hire a company to perform a physical abilities test (PAT) on your candidate. He or she is slotted into a standard PAT protocol and fails. You withdraw your job offer and don’t think twice about it. Two months later, the candidate is suing you for discrimination. What did you do wrong?

By placing your candidate in a pre-set PAT protocol, your provider had the candidate lifting more weight than the job required. Your provider’s protocol had a minimal lifting requirement of 75 pounds, but the actual job only required that the candidate occasionally lift 50 pounds. Further, the candidate was only actually required to lift the weight from waist height, as opposed to from the ground up.

Situations like this do happen. Some service providers take a one-size-fits all approach to physical abilities testing, grouping candidates into a limited set of pre-determined testing protocols.

Unfortunately, in this case, if the candidate fails to lift 75 pounds during the test and you withdraw their job offer because of it, your decision could be challenged in court.

The PAT you put your candidates through must be sound and custom-created to meet the unique physical demands of each job. This begins with a detailed physical demands analysis (PDA).

The PDA should objectively measure a job’s critical demands

The first step to a sound testing protocol is the physical demands analysis. The PDA should only reflect the job’s bona fide requirements, which are the most demanding physical tasks required to be performed by the candidate.

Some of the details to look for include:

  • Accurate frequency requirements for lifting, carrying, pushing/pulling and postural demands such as bending, and reaching. Make sure these values are not overestimated.
  • Hand heights – for lifting above shoulder height, hand heights for pushing and pulling requirements, and heights reached to.

The PAT must be based on the job’s critical demands

The methodology behind a great PAT protocol must be scientific, peer-reviewed, and evidence-based. Custom-created by experienced and qualified kinesiologists or other professionals, the protocols themselves must be based on the PDA.

Before the actual test, a questionnaire should be filled out by the candidate to ensure that the physical activity they are expected to perform won’t put their health at risk. This will also help determine if the candidate should get medical advice first.

During the PAT, a health professional should objectively evaluate the candidate’s ability to perform all essential tasks safely and efficiently. Their response to exercise should be measured and monitored (e.g. blood pressure and heart rate) throughout the process.

Using a provider that takes you through this process will help ensure you are making a defensible hiring decision that would stand up in court.

Getting results you can trust

Once the candidate is determined either physically fit or unfit for the job, areas of limitation must be identified by your provider so that you can make a fully informed decision on whether to accommodate the individual.

Here at DriverCheck, we tailor physical abilities test protocols to provide you with the most accurate and reliable results. For more on how to ensure that your PAT is defensible, feel free to get in touch, or check out the tutorial on our website!