It's a problem every employer faces.
* One in five American workers is at risk for developing injuries
associated with cumulative trauma, according to the National
Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. The agency estimates
employers will spend more than $200 billion this year for costs
related to workers compensation injury and lost time days.
* In 1998, 5.5 million work-related injuries were reported in the
United States, according to the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. That agency estimates more than 50 percent of the
American work force will suffer this year from repetitive motion
injuries (including back and carpal tunnel). Injuries caused by
overexertion should rise dramatically as well.
* The Department of Labor reports 1.8 million U.S. workers each
year experience work-related musculoskeletal disorders, such as
injuries from overexertion or repetitive motion. About one-third are
serious enough to require time off work. Work-related MSDs account
for one-third of all workers comp costs each year because the
injuries can require a lengthy recovery time.
With that clouding the horizon, it behooves employers to weed out
potential workers comp cases before they're hired. One solution is
the WorkSTEPS Employment Testing Program from WorkSTEPS Inc. of Las
Colinas, Texas, one of the nation's largest providers of
standardized medical/functional employment testing.
The program identifies individuals who do not meet job specific
strengths, provides employers with a pass/fail recommendation,
appropriately matches current and new employees to the physical
demands of their jobs, substantiates legitimate injury and
disqualifies fraudulent claims, reduces employee turnover and
expedites employee's return to work.
Associated Rehabilitation Inc. in south Oklahoma City was the
first WorkSTEPS provider in the Sooner State. The clinic has been
implementing the program for about five years. Stuart Alexander, a
registered physical therapist for Associated Rehabilitation, said
the firm provides the program to about 20 companies, mostly oil-
The program, he said, began in Texas 10 years ago by Larry
Feeler, an Odessa, Texas, physical therapist. Facilities have since
spread throughout Oklahoma and the United States. In addition to
Oklahoma City, Alexander said WorkSTEPS facilities are available in
Tulsa, Duncan, Ardmore, Woodward and Clinton. He said one is
expected to open soon in Norman.
WorkSTEPS is "a program to make sure that whoever an employer
hires is physically qualified to do the job and to identify pre-
existing musculoskeletal conditions that might show up on the job,"
said Alexander. "A lot of people after they've been working for
someone for two or three days reported an injured shoulder or an
injured knee that they may have brought to the workplace."
Alexander conducts a thorough medical interview and a
musculoskeletal examination to discover any pre-existing conditions.
When a condition is identified, the employee is required to go to
the doctor and receive a statement saying the employee is medically
qualified to perform the job. The employer has documentation that
the employee is qualified and that the condition exists.
"That is at the employee's own expense," Alexander said. "And
many times they don't come back."
The employer, though, pays for the WorkSTEPS program. Pre- and
post-employment screening includes four levels of testing in the
The first level determines the employee candidate's maximum safe
lifts from the floor to knuckle, knuckle to shoulder and shoulder to
overhead. The candidates are instructed in proper mechanics and
lifting techniques. Recommendations are then made for the
candidate's maximum safe lift.
"Ergonomic data indicates workers are at low injury risk if they
do not exceed 75 percent of their lifting weight," Alexander said. …