Keep Employees Safe with Screenings and Wellness Plans

A safe foodservice workplace is key to a successful meal program. You can take measures to reduce risks by reviewing your operation, as described in the September 2020 article, “Safety First, Last and Always.” Part of that review might include making plans for pre-screening employees to avoid those who are predisposed to injury, as well as keeping current workers safe with employer-sponsored employee wellness programs (EWP) or employee assistance programs (EAP).

Just as your district may have a policy requiring the collection of fingerprints and performing drug testing and background checks as part of the hiring process, and you may conduct physical dexterity and other skills test, you may want to work with your human resource department and legal counsel about the feasibility of requiring pre-employment physical screening and examination as a condition of employment. This can help screen out candidates who are predisposed to injury. The cost of this type of medical screening is minor compared to higher costs for injury.

A medical examination may reveal drug or alcohol use, osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, medical conditions (such as emphysema or peripheral vascular disease), eye conditions (such as glaucoma or cataracts) and ear conditions that may cause vertigo or loss of hearing, etc. All of these can have an impact on an employee’s ability to perform job responsibilities effectively and can raise the risk for on-the-job injury claims.

Strength testing may be performed by a physical therapist or occupational medicine physician and may include grip strength. Whole-body strength-testing can assess an candidate’s lifting and pulling ability.

If a current employee proves physically unable to continue to perform the duties listed within the job description, that individual may need reassignment to duties that can be performed within physical capabilities. This requires a great deal of compassion and sense of fairness on the part of management in finding suitable work for the employee without causing the employee to become unemployed because of physical limitations. You also will need to consult with the human resources department about what reassignment actions are permissible under a labor union or other employment contracts.

Current staff also may benefit from an employer-sponsored employee wellness program (EWP) or employee assistance program (EAP). Such programs can help employees to take personal action and responsibility for medical screening/detection, prevention behaviors, education and rehabilitation. Potential workshops might address smoking cessation, weight loss, nutrition counseling, physical conditioning, shopping for health and wellness, stress management and drug dependency information.

Remember, pre-employment screening and early detection of potentially debilitating medical conditions are designed to reduce risks for the school nutrition operation and the employee. Just be sure that you always consult your human resources team before taking any actions or offering any advice to staff members regarding personal wellness and medical conditions.

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