Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Opinion: Utilizing Physical Examinations to Help Avoid Worker's Comp Claims when Hiring Older Workers

As older workers become more important to employers, concerns also rise as to the worker's compensation costs associated with older workers. According to Julie Croushore, a claims supervisor with National Interstate Insurance Company, older employees "present an added risk of injury and workers’ compensation claims as many suffer from arthritis and other chronic pre-existing medical conditions."

Statistics suggesting that older workers suffer higher fatalities from workplace injuries and lose more more days than younger workers can mean increased workers' compensation claims and higher insurance premiums. Croushore suggests that the nation’s aging workforce demands a proactive approach to risk managemen: "most workers’ compensation claims are preventable. The trick is to determine ahead of time if an individual is capable of performing a job safely, particularly in the case of older workers with pre-existing and chronic conditions."

Describing a scenario in which a longhaul truckdriver retires to be closer to his family and is hired by a local delivery company, only to have him get injured and go out on workers' comp at his new employer's expense, Croushore recommends that an employer should use a a pre-employment physical examination or abilities test to determine whether a candidate can safely deal with the physical demands of a new job.
Through the exam, the employer would have learned the extent of [the employee]’s arthritis and realized he couldn’t handle those truck steps many times a day. Knowing that would have enabled the delivery company to make a more informed employment decision — including a decision not to hire [employee] because he was medically unable to perform the essential job function of a delivery driver safely. Or, the employer could have decided to offer him a driving position that didn’t involve many stops.
Source: Transport Topics "Opinion: Workers’ Comp and Our Aging Workforce" (January 4, 2010)

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