Managing workplace risk through pre-employment medical assessments
Reviewed by Dan Franklin, Chief Operating Officer
A pre-employment medical assessment is a type of assessment undertaken prior to a decision on employment being made. It is a mechanism by which an employer can set the tone for their commitment to the health and safety of team members. The assessment allows the employer to effectively manage workplace risk by ensuring that a potential candidate can perform the inherent requirements of the role, therefore, minimising the opportunity for the risk to present in the short to medium term. A structured and consistent pre-employment screening process ensures that every candidate that applies for the role, is subjected to the same health screening process. This helps to determine the candidate best suited for the role1.
What is the purpose of pre-employment medical assessments in the recruitment process?
Many Australian employees are required to undergo health screening as a pre-condition of employment. This form of screening often involves a medical or physical examination along with various questionnaire that are designed to collect information on a candidate’s health history and other lifestyle factors. In some industries, pre-employment or pre-placement medical examinations are required by the various governing bodies, for example, where the candidate will be employed in activities that may be hazardous, such as operating machinery in mines2.
Irrespective of the industry in question, an employees’ overall health can have a significant impact on their ability to perform the inherent requirements of the role which in turn effects performance, productivity, and the overall safety of the workplace. That is why it is in the interest of all parties to screen potential employees before making any hiring decisions, to ensure a candidate with an appropriate level of fitness and capability can be recruited.
Additionally, the evaluation helps employers understand their workforce and creates a baseline for further health surveillance.
What types of tests are included in pre-employment medical assessments?
Subject to legislative requirements, it is up to the employer to determine the pre-employment screening checks required for each specific role. When defining the screening checks, it is essential to consider the inherent requirements of the role along with any known risks associated with the role or work environment. These two components such be utilised when deciding on the screening needed to ensure occupational health risks are managed to the best of the employer’s ability3.
Some of the typical screens/tests include:
- General medical examination – to check for a candidate’s BMI, cardiovascular and respiratory health.
- Vision check – to check for strength of vision, colour blindness or sight issues.
- Audiometric testing – to check for hearing ability or hearing loss.
- Urinalysis – to determine the presence of diabetes or kidney/bladder disorders.
- Alcohol/drug tests – to measure alcohol or illicit drug concentration in the blood.
- Functional assessments – as per the job role
- Vaccinations/immunisations – to reduce or prevent the likelihood of infections2.
Why is a pre-employment medical assessment important in assessing an applicant’s suitability for a particular job?
Pre-employment medical assessments help employers to effectively match candidates to roles that meet their health and physical abilities. They are a tool that can be used to ensure potential recruits can safely perform the inherent requirements of the role whilst ensuring that others in the workplace aren’t put at risk. They also help employers build a healthier, more resilient workforce with reduced injuries, health concerns and therefore associated workers’ compensation claims.
How do you ensure compliance with legislation, ethics and maintaining the confidentiality of health information?
All personal information collected while providing a health service is considered health information under the Privacy Act. Health information is ‘sensitive information’ under the Privacy Act, meaning that some stricter requirements apply when handling it4.
Examples of health information include:
- information about a candidate’s physical or mental health
- notes of a candidate’s symptoms or diagnosis and the treatment given
- specialist reports and test results
- physical or biological samples where they could be linked to a candidate’s (for example where labelled with the candidate’s name or other identifier)
- appointment and billing details
- prescriptions and other pharmaceutical purchases
- dental records
- records held by a fitness club about an individual
- a candidate’s healthcare identifier when it is collected to provide a health service
- any other personal information (such as information about an individual’s date of birth
- gender, race, sexuality, or religion), collected for the purpose of providing a health service.
However, it is important that employers do not discriminate against any candidate when reviewing this information. It is against the law to refuse employment based on medical results that disclose a health condition, particularly if the information is not related to how adequately the person could perform the inherent requirements of the job5.
There are additional considerations for the storage and dissemination of that information and so employers and health providers must ensure that medical information is managed sensitively, and that the candidate is advised of the results with discretion.
How can Bodycare support your business with pre-employment health assessments?
In an age where people are working for longer, under increased physical and mental demands, it is becoming increasingly more important to ensure that the right people are entering into your workforce. Selecting candidates who can safely perform the inherent requirements of their role is vital and forms the building block for a sustainable injury prevention strategy.
At Bodycare we do not just provide effective pre-employment medical screening solutions – we partner with organisations to provide an innovative and responsive health risk management service to facilitate health performance and injury prevention in your workforce. Talk to us about building risk mitigation into your recruitment strategy with a pre-employment process.