The essential function testing area at BarnesCare's Midtown clinic looks like a warehouse for unique odds-and-ends. The assortment includes a balance beam, weighted dummies, cable wrapped in duct tape, various tools, ropes, weights and a pressed paper cylinder surrounding a metal ladder.
Each of these items can be used for a BarnesCare essential function test (EFT). EFTs help local companies determine if new-hire candidates are suited for jobs ranging from deckhand to emergency medical technician to sewer district worker. In addition, BJC hospitals have used EFTs to assess patient transporter candidates, helping to reduce on-the-job injuries and associated costs (click here to see the story).
During an EFT, job candidates use these items and others to simulate the essential movements, postures and tasks they’ll be required to perform on the job. A qualified evaluator assesses whether the candidate meets the requirements and sends a report to the company.
It’s been shown that workers who aren’t well-matched for their job are more likely to suffer on-the-job injuries, says Kelly Bini, BJC certified ergonomic specialist and essential function evaluator. But an EFT helps ensure candidates can meet job requirements, reducing the likelihood of injury.
“An EFT is about keeping the workforce safe, so it benefits workers and companies,” Bini says. "Companies often find that essential function testing helps increase productivity and decrease workers’ compensation claims.”
BarnesCare specialists, such as Bini and Marissa Giuffre, another BarnesCare essential function evaluator, work with companies to develop tests that accurately simulate the essential movements, postures and activities workers would encounter while performing the job.
“We do a physical demands analysis, looking at things like how much a worker might typically lift, push or pull, how often they have to do a task, what are all the different positions they’ll be in, what force do they have to generate to move an object. We look at the job duties, and then we think, ‘How can I simulate this in a clinical setting?’” Bini says.
That might entail using a work simulator machine that replicates turning, scooping, scraping and other motions under varying pressures. Or it might mean finding a pressed paper concrete form the same diameter as a standard manhole and fitting it around the testing area’s metal ladder.
Sometimes testing is as simple as seeing whether a candidate can squat properly, while other candidates may have to walk the balance beam carrying a tool they’d use on the job. Candidates who wear safety gear or equipment on the job may also test with it.
BarnesCare often tests a variety of job tasks, including those that are physically challenging or repetitive in nature. Workers who pack or assemble items or do other repetitive tasks may perform a test that simulates the job demand’s repetition or cadence.
During testing, the BarnesCare evaluator often coaches candidates, making sure they know the correct posture or mechanics to safely execute movements. “We may be educating them as they’re testing,” says Giuffre. “Mechanics are equally as important as strength when you’re performing a lift.”
She stresses that an EFT isn’t a pass/fail situation, but a determination of whether or not the candidates have “met” or “not met” each task’s demands. The results are reported back to the company. The final decision on hiring is entirely the company’s.
More companies are finding EFTs can be a cost-effective and necessary step in their hiring process. With workers’ compensation costs continuing to rise, the need to keep a healthy workforce is vital, Bini says.
Testing takes place at all three BarnesCare clinic locations and can also be completed on-site for a company as needed.
“Sometimes the demands of the job are such that we have to go out to the company and have the candidate assessed on the job site,” notes Giuffre. “Not all tasks require this, but it’s nice to know we can accommodate the needs of any employer with these capabilities.”
For more information on essential function testing, call 314.747.5859.