The Benefits of Pre-Employment Stress Testing - Fit First Responders

Occupational injuries occur across the board, but work-related injuries in Emergency Medical Services workers run high, resulting in three times the lost workday rate of all private-industry workers, according to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Preventing on the job injuries by providing safety training, access to a fitness facility, and proper protective equipment and clothing is recommended but another consideration is pre-employment stress testing. By not hiring the injuries to begin with, the risk of a workers’ compensation claim is reduced.

The sole purpose of pre-employment stress testing is to reduce on the job injuries. Workers’ compensation claims can run into the tens of thousands. The most common EMS injury is overexertion, making the testing concept simple, hire employees physically capable to do the job. 

Physical Ability Tests (PAT) should be created to test for high levels of strength, mobility, and power. However, these types of tests can be controversial:

  • EMS departments running their own pre-hire PAT may introduce unknown bias in both the test taker and examiner, causing the test to be invalid.
  • Not all tests are standardized or compared to national statistics.
  • Testing is not always consistent, meaning tests could be given with or without the test taker wearing EMS gear.

A question to consider regarding the importance of a pre-employment stress test is, “are you OK with risk and liability exposures because employee fitness is poor?”

Ideally, these tests should be affordable to run in-house, and also be job specific, test human power generation, assess anaerobic capacity, and be legally defensible. Departments should work to remove the negative stigma surrounding these types of tests, as the goal is an injury free environment, and that begins with fit and healthy employees. 

Current Examples of Physical Ability Tests (PAT) Specifically for EMTs

Medic Mile as a potential PAT

  • 8 events
  • Simulate critical, physically demanding tasks
  • Different time limit for each event.
  • Test takes around 20 minutes
  • Need 7/8 points to pass

State of California

  • EMT Skills Competency Verification Form
  • Must perform 10 skills in front of an approved verifier

CARE Ambulances in Orange, CA

  • Physical test
  • Deadlift around 140 lbs
  • Back strength test
  • Simulated patient drags, lifts, stretcher moves
  • CPR compressions
  • Reapply in 12 month

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