Strength tests

Employers in construction, contracting, warehousing and other physically intensive workplaces are familiar with workers’ compensation claims, as these businesses tend to have more workplace injuries than office or other sedentary jobs.

However, when business owners hire new employees, there has not been a way to objectively test for the strength required for the job. In a worst-case scenario, a new employee may not have the physical strength to perform a job, greatly increasing the likelihood of a workplace injury.

To assist employers, The Horton Group, an insurance, risk management and employee benefits brokerage based in Orton Park, Ill. with an office in Pewaukee, now offers pre-employment strength testing.

The test is compliant with all employment practices, laws and regulations, and works similar to a pre-employment drug test, said Michelle Mikrut, director of administration with Network Safety Consultants Inc., an affiliate of The Horton Group who performs the strength tests.

Like drug testing, pre-employment strength testing is done before a job offer, to ensure that an applicant is capable of the job duties, Mikrut said. Because the test uses isokinetic testing methods that are measured by specially designed machines, the tests are objective and fair, she said.

“We’re matching the physical abilities to the demands of the job,” Mikrut said. “We do a job task analysis of each job we want to test for. For most of the jobs we test for, it’s easy because they are so repetitive.”

Rob Teitsma, business development manager with Cost Reduction Technologies LLC, the Illinois firm that designed the strength testing machinery, said the three tests measure 83 percent of the muscle groups used in most physical labor. And because the machine uses isokinetic energy, it objectively tests each user.

“The machine measures only the capability of each individual being tested,” Teitsma said. “It’s an objective test. It only tests what the individual is capable of doing.”

The Horton Group began offering pre-employment strength testing at its Orton Park headquarters in June. The company’s Pewaukee branch started the service a few weeks ago.

The strength test screens applicants on back, arm and shoulder and knee strength, and is designed to show if the applicant has the physical capability of performing the job or has any pre-existing injury that could be aggravated by the work. The test can also be used to test an employee that has been injured on the job, to see if they are ready to return to work.

Return on investment is difficult to measure with preventative actions such as pre-employment strength testing, said Rob McIntyre, The Horton Group’s Waukesha market president, because the reward is the number of workers’ compensation claims that are avoided.

However, the test can reveal injuries such as a damaged rotator cuff, which can require surgery costing up to $25,000. And adding in lost wages, the costs of retraining the employee for a different job and disability costs can greatly increase that amount.

“It can be three to 11 times the cost of the injury itself,” he said. “Most employers, if there is a physical nature to their work, can tell you how much their worst injuries cost, and which ones were probably pre-existing before (the employee) came in.”

Several of The Horton Group’s clients in metro Chicago have already signed up for pre-employment strength testing, including several warehouses and distribution centers, a forging plant, plumbing contractor and other manufacturing and contracting businesses, Mikrut said.

The Pewaukee office also has reached agreements with several clients, including a general contractor, a construction firm, a food distributor and a beer distributor, McIntyre said.

Each test costs $150, which essentially covers The Horton Group’s costs of administering it.

“This is a service to our clients to help them improve workplace safety and keep costs down,” said McIntyre. “We’re not trying to diagnose or rehabilitate (injuries). We’re trying to help the employers find out if someone is not fit for the job.”

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