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Published Wednesday, 8th July 2015

The process of performing a pre-employment medical assessment or periodic health monitoring is not difficult, but it’s not difficult to get wrong either.  So how do we make sure the critical pieces of the puzzle fit together correctly so that everybody gets what they need, on time, inside budget and without the hassle?  Success comes to those who ask the right questions of their provider in the early stages, not in what they discover down the track.

The quantity of Pre-employment assessments and periodic health monitoring conducted in Australia in the last decade has exploded.  This is due, in no small part, to the huge growth in Mining and Infrastructure and an increase in health and safety compliance in these sectors.  While certain aspects of pre-employment testing and periodic health monitoring have become more streamlined with the creation of national guidelines, there are still aspects of the service that continue to plague recruiters, employers and workers.

There are four critical steps that need to be done well for the pre-employment and periodic health monitoring processes to run well.  If these steps are not performed well, they cause pain for recruiters, employers and workers who quickly question how much bang they are getting for their buck:

1. Choosing Your Provider.

Your occupational health service provider must be able to give you what your company requires.  In doing this, there are “Three C’s” they must satisfy:

Capacity: Is your provider able to perform the number of Pre-employment assessments and periodic health monitoring services within your timeframe?  If not, you will need to choose an alternate provider or you may need to distribute the service required between two or more providers.

Coverage: Do you require your provider to have national coverage or can a local provider do the job?  Currently, there are a number of providers who have a national coverage within Australia. Some providers are able to provide a service in regional and remote areas as well as metropolitan areas.  This may be achieved in-house or through an affiliate network. It is always a good idea to clarify who will be performing the service.

Cost: How much does the service cost and what do you get in return?  What information do you get in the report?  Some Pre-employment testing and periodical health monitoring is expensive, but this does not mean they will provide you with the information you require to make the right decision about a worker.  Another, sometimes hidden, cost to consider is the additional fee associated with providing a service in regional or remote areas. Also, be sure to know the extra fees associated with no-shows or late cancellations.

2. Booking Your Health Service Appointment.

Does your provider’s booking process make it easy for you or the worker to make an appointment? Also, does your provider allow for multiple bookings to be made at the same time?  Ideally, your provider is flexible enough to work with your method of booking, whether you are the one to confirm an appointment or whether you require the provider to confirm an appointment directly with the worker.

The appointment confirmation needs to be clearly communicated with you and the worker, and you need to be made immediately aware of any no-shows so that workers can be rebooked as soon as possible.

3. Choosing the Correct Assessment.

Safe Work Australia and certain State bodies have made some industry specific pre-employment testing and periodic health monitoring easy by creating standardised paperwork for providers to complete.  This makes testing and the reporting of results uniform across providers in Australia.

In the case of pre-employment medical and functional assessments however, the difference between providers can be significant. For example, some providers perform fairly general testing which may be better suited to non-specialised job roles, while other providers perform job-specific testing that is more sensitive to specialised job roles.

The testing that is performed should always provide you with the information you need to make your critical decisions about employing future workers or about how to manage current worker’s conditions.  Be careful to make sure you are always getting the information you need.

4. Receiving and Understanding Your Assessment Report.

How long should you wait before you receive a report?  1 day, 3 days or maybe give it a week?  The answer to this question depends on how quickly you need information.  Some providers claim a 24 hour turn-around once all testing is completed. Monitor this and call your provider to account if they are not regularly meeting this deadline.

Another question to ask is, “Do I have to consistently chase up reports or is my provider reliable in forwarding reports to me on time?”  Understand, your provider works for you and you should not have to spend time helping them do their job.  If your provider does not reasonably deliver a service within the promised timeframe, or if they are not delivering on the service that was agreed upon, then it may be time to look around for another provider.

Do the reports you receive provide you with an opinion on risk if an employee were to perform a particular role, or are you simply provided with an overall score or even a pass or fail?  It pays to find out how a provider arrives at their conclusions.  Some tests, if failed, make a worker unsuitable for particular job roles.

This information is easily hidden when a provider’s report concludes with an overall score only.  In some cases, a worker who has been given a “pass” result after performing general testing would not have achieved the same result if job-specific testing were performed.  So it pays to understand the testing and the paperwork.

Finally, are the reports you receive easy to follow, read and interpret?  Reports that are not set out clearly take longer to read. Similarly, reports that are hand written are often misinterpreted or not understood at all.  This translates into extra time on the part of the recruiter or employer to discuss the report further for clarification.

Sometimes a company will engage two different providers in order to compare which one delivers a service that best matches their company’s needs.  If you are not entirely happy with the service you receive, or if the answers to your questions are not entirely adequate, it’s time to look around.

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