An job applicant speaks to a provider during a pre-employment physical.

The employer’s guide to pre-employment physicals

Pre-employment physicals help to ensure that new employees are healthy and able to perform their duties safely and effectively. This can help reduce the risk of workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses, which can be costly to you and your employees.

Identifying health issues early

Pre-employment physicals can identify health issues early, before they become more severe and potentially more difficult to treat. This can help employees get the treatment they need to stay healthy and productive. It can also help both of you avoid the costs associated with more serious health issues.

There are several medical conditions that have no or few symptoms. And, unfortunately, many people, especially young people, ignore yearly physicals. These physicals are an excellent opportunity for employees to discover conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or missing vaccinations.

Protecting against liability

Pre-employment physicals can help protect yourself against liability if an employee suffers a work-related injury or illness. You may be protected from liability if an employee is found to have a pre-existing condition that contributes to their injury or illness.

Need help with pre-employment physicals?

> Contact OSF Employer Relations

A physical can also detect something like the need for hearing aids. If a drug screening is included, it could uncover substance usage. These are especially important when a job candidate will be driving or using dangerous equipment.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) rules require a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical for anyone who operates a commercial motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more, or who transports hazardous materials. DOT physicals are meant to assess the physical and mental fitness of the driver to operate the commercial vehicle safely.

To keep our roadways safe, a DOT medical exam is required every two years.

What is a pre-employment physical?

Pre-employment physicals typically involve a medical examination of a job candidate’s overall health, medical history and physical abilities to determine if they are fit for the job.

The specific components of a pre-employment physical can vary depending on the job requirements and the employer’s policies. For seasonal, temporary or light-duty positions, you can choose a basic physical. Physicals are typically provided at occupational health and urgent care facilities. An urgent care pre-employment physical is easy and convenient.

Pre-employment physicals commonly include:

  • Medical history – The job candidate will be asked to provide a detailed medical history, including information about past illnesses, surgeries, medications and any chronic conditions they may have.
  • Physical examination – The job candidate will undergo a physical exam that typically includes a check of vital signs like blood pressure and heart rate, an assessment of height and weight, and an examination of various body systems such as the cardiovascular, respiratory and musculoskeletal systems.
  • Laboratory tests – Depending on the job requirements and your policies, the job candidate may be required to undergo various laboratory tests. These tests may include a drug test or a blood test to check for certain health conditions.

Whether a pre-employment physical includes a drug test depends not just on your company’s specific policies but any laws that apply. Those laws vary from state to state.

  • Vision and hearing tests – Many jobs require good vision and hearing. Job candidates may be required to undergo tests to assess their visual acuity and hearing abilities.
  • Physical fitness assessment – Depending on the job requirements, the job candidate may be required to perform various physical tasks to assess their physical abilities and fitness level for the job.

Many job candidates worry about what reasons they would fail a pre-employment physical. With the exception of a DOT physical, passing a physical depends largely on the employer’s specific guidelines for the position. DOT physicals require the applicant not to have any health conditions or substance abuse problems that could pose a risk to operating their vehicle.

Setting the tone

Requiring pre-employment physicals can help promote a culture of safety in the workplace. When your employees see that you are committed to ensuring a safe and healthy work environment, they may be more likely to take safety precautions seriously and be more proactive about their health and safety.

A safe and productive work environment is essential for any business. There are many variables to factor into every situation. Discuss your unique situation with your legal counsel to ensure you choose the proper pre-employment physical for your situation.

Last Updated: April 18, 2023

Follow Us on Social Media

About Author: David Pruitt

David Pruitt is a writer for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare. He has a bachelor’s of journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and worked as a reporter before joining OSF HealthCare in 2014.

An avid golfer and fisherman, David was born and raised Alton, Illinois, which is where he currently resides with his son, James.

View all posts by


Categories: Healthy Workplace