January 6, 2017

Pre-Placement Health Assessments

It is the responsibility of organisations to ensure that they do not place workers in a position that will put them at risk either of a new injury or aggravation of a previous injury or condition. One way that an organisation can manage the risk of aggravation is by implementing a pre-placement health assessment to ascertain if the worker has any issues which may increase the risk of injury or illness.

A pre-placement health assessment may include:

  • the completion of a confidential health questionnaire asking individuals about health issues relevant to the risks presented by a particular job;
  • discussion regarding any health matters; and
  • consideration of any health checks required as part of an on-going health monitoring programme required for the job such as a  breathing health check if exposed to respiratory hazards.

If a concern is raised during this internal assessment, an external assessment of fitness and medical suitability for the role should be made by a suitably qualified medical professional within a relevant occupational health service field.

The pre-placement health assessment must focus on the disclosure of injuries or conditions which could “reasonably be expected to be aggravated by performing their employment related duties”. When on-boarding workers it is important to have a conversation with the worker about the nature of the work tasks they will be expected to perform to enable them to decide if an injury or condition is reportable. Entitlement to compensation and/or damages under the Worker’s Compensation and Rehabilitation Act may be jeopardised if a worker fails to disclose a pre-existing injury or condition during this assessment stage.

This process is not meant to discriminate against workers who have pre-existing injuries or conditions. Discrimination would be if given the information provided by a worker the organisation makes an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of a person based on their disclosure. Rather, it is to ensure that the worker will be safe to perform the required tasks and whether reasonable adjustments are required to the work environment or work tasks to ensure safety.

Any information that is collected about a worker must be treated confidentially. The worker must be made aware of the purpose for the collection of this information, the source and manner of collection of the information, storage and access, security and disposal of the information. The process of disclosure may mean that the organisation collects certain types of sensitive information, i.e. medical information and this information must be secured and not used or disclosed except in line with the original collection. Having a privacy policy and a mechanism and procedure to resolve complaints should also be considered before implementing a process which collects sensitive information.

If a worker discloses that they have a pre-existing injury or condition a determination should be reached based on the required duties and worker capacity as to the likely risk that this may pose. The pre-placement health assessment will enable a medically informed decision to be reached as to the worker’s capability as one of the following:

  • The worker is medically fit to perform the required duties without risk to theirs or others health and safety;
  • With reasonable restrictions/modification the worker is medically fit to perform the required duties without risk to theirs or others health and safety; or
  • The worker is medically unable to perform the required duties without risk to the applicant’s work health, safety and welfare, or poses a risk to others.

Reasonably practicable adjustments, modifications and/or accommodations to the work and/or position must be considered to enable the prospective employee to fulfil the inherent requirements of their position and/or work. What is reasonable would be assessed based on their effectiveness to mitigate the risk to the worker and others and the hardship that they would impose to the organisation i.e. cost, operational viability etc. If it is found that these adjustments, modifications and/or accommodations would impose unjustifiable hardship on the organisation then they are not required to be implemented.

A documented pre-placement health assessment and review of risks and reasonable restrictions/modification will enable organisations to ensure that they do not place workers in positions which may pose a risk to them or others. If you need help ensuring your employment processes are safe, fair and equitable, contact us.