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The Important Investment of Fitness-for-Duty Exams

  • Published
  • 30 January 2023
  • Category
  • General

Fitness-for-duty (FFD) examinations are a useful tool employers can invest in to reduce liability exposure and help ensure the health, safety and productivity of their workforce.

The scope of an FFD medical exam focuses on whether an employee or job applicant has the physical, mental and emotional capacity to safely perform essential tasks.

Findings from an objective FFD assessment may be relied on to clear an employee for full return to work. Alternatively, it may identify physical or mental health conditions that increase risk for a work-related injury or compromise the safety of others. Other potential risk factors such as advanced age, chronic conditions, fatigue, obesity or substance use may also be identified.

Many employers consider FFD exams to be an essential contributor to their organization’s sustainability and risk management efforts. They often function as an extension of required medical surveillance exams that are performed to establish baselines and measure changes in health status over time. They are also associated with drug-free workplace policies, behavioral health and employee assistance programs, and regulatory compliance efforts.

Exam Benefits

An assessment may be performed:

  • As part of hiring and onboarding
  • To address safety-sensitive duties
  • Prior to a change in work assignment
  • At the request of the worker or employer
  • In response to observed behavior
  • Before return to work after an illness, injury or prolonged absence
  • When there is a reasonable concern about safety

When an employee is returning to work after an injury or illnesses, a FFW evaluation provides reassurance and information to ensure successful reintegration back into the workplace on full duty, in a temporarily modified position or with other accommodations.

Taking Action

A multi-disciplinary approach that includes an occupational medicine physician to interpret clinical findings is recommended. WorkCare’s Medical Exams & Travel team facilitates access to FFD exam providers via our national provider network, while our occupational physicians provide clinical oversight. We also support clients where we have onsite clinics. Employers must provide functional job descriptions and a safe work environment for successful outcomes.

It’s important to note that FFD exams are not a substitute for routine preventive care and medical treatment recommended by a personal provider. However, in the workplace, awareness of physical and mental functional capacity reveals the value of targeted preventive interventions (including cost avoidance) and a prompt response in the event of an injury or incident.

To learn more about WorkCare’s Medical Exams & Travel capabilities, contact us.