Physical Demands Testing: What is it? How do I Implement?

In last weeks post, I discussed the importance of a Physical Demands Analysis (PDA).  In that discussion, I briefly touched on the importance of having an updated/validated PDA in place in order to perform a post-offer physical demands test (referred to by us as a physical demands test, or PDT). This may have left some of you wondering what a PDT is and how it can benefit your company?  I will also discuss today how to implement PDT at your company in a manner that is compliant with EEOC and ADA regulations.

Brief Summary

A PDT is a test that is performed post-job offer by a qualified medical professional in a controlled setting.  The test is representative of the physical demands of associated with the essential job functions of the position that the candidate has been offered.  The job offer is contingent upon the candidate passing the PDT.  Most often, a PDT occurs in a physical therapy clinic or an occupational clinic independent of the employer with which they have applied.

What is the Purpose?

The purpose of the PDT is to ensure that the candidate to which the company has extended a job offer is a match for the physical demands associated with essential job functions of the position. I used a football analogy last week: a football coach would never place a field goal kicker (a position with a typical body weight <175 lbs.) on the offensive line (a position with a typical body weight >350 lbs.). However, we see this “out of position” analogy happening daily in medium to heavy level work environments. The candidate must be a physical match for the position, or they will experience a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) during their employment in that position. The WMSD may not occur immediately, but as some point, it is almost certain to happen. Performing a valid PDT ensures the safety of the employee, coworkers and the company.  Additionally, the company is more likely to retain the employee for a longer duration if they can physically handle the job demands.

How does PDT Save the Company Money?

There are several factors that contribute to overall cost savings.  In fact, in our experience, companies experience a 7-1 ROI that have a valid PDT program in place.  I have included some cost saving contributing factors below:

  1. Candidates are aware of the physical demands of the position, resulting in early retention (less job hopping 1-2 weeks in).
  2. Candidates are a physical match for the physical demands of the position, resulting in long term retention.
  3. Candidates experience less WMSDs, resulting in less lost time, recordable injuries, workman’s comp claims etc.
  4. Candidates are more productive because they can physically handle job demands.
  5. PDT can be utilized when an employee is returning to work from injury (fit-for-duty test), ensuring that the employee is ready to perform job demands once again.  This lowers the risk reinjury.

What is a Valid PDT?

I can not emphasize enough that a PDT must be based upon real job demands recorded in a current/ validated PDA. This means, that the weight lifted, and repetitions performed should reflect exactly what the potential employee would be performing in the position.  Additionally, a valid PDT ensures test quality, meaning that the test being performed screens out individuals that are not a physical match for the position.  If everyone passes, why perform a PDT? In our experience, for heavy work, a failure rate of 10-15% ensures quality candidate selection. 


Partner with experts to implement your PDT program.  They should have experience in PDAs and PDTs and have a long track record of performing these services.  Tour the facility where they will be performing the test and ensure that it is in align with the values of your company.  The clinic should have a neat/clean appearance, have professional staff and adequate space to carry out the test.  Remember, your job candidates with see this clinic as an extension of your company. Additionally, this clinic should have enough schedule availability to accommodate all candidates when you need them tested.  The quickest way to lose support of program from management is having long wait times between job-offer and testing.


Implementation of a program such as this can be a bit overwhelming. We love helping companies work through this and providing strategies to achieve support from management by providing useful information such as ROI data. 

If I can be of any assistance to you or if you have any questions, please connect with me by your favorite platform below.  I would love to start a conversation!




Kevin is the Executive Director of HealthWorks Kinesiology and is a Certified Industrial Ergonomic Evaluator (CIEE), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT).  Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Health Promotion from Louisiana Tech University. 

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