How Human Performance Evaluations Help Improve Employee Safety

Andrew Berry

After years of stability in the job market, employees are switching jobs at rates not seen since the 1970s, often in search of higher pay and more job satisfaction. With employers competing against each other in a tight job market, how can your business ensure that it’s getting employees who can safely perform their jobs?  Human performance evaluations can help make sure employers are hiring employees who fit the job.

First-year blues

Businesses are spending more than ever to hire employees. A 2019 study by job site Glassdoor found that the average U.S. employer spends $4,000 to hire a new employee. By 2022, that cost had risen to $4,700 in hard costs, like job board postings. When adding in soft costs, including the time departmental leaders and managers invest in supporting the hiring process, employers can add up to 60% on top of their original expenses.1

First-year employees are certainly expensive to hire, but they can also be costly to employ. New employees are more likely to get injured and incur workers’ compensation costs. When comparing unadjusted claim rates, rates for workers in their first month of a job were four to six times higher than those with more than one year on the job.2 Injuries to first-year employees can also take up an outsize share of total workers’ compensation costs, with one major insurer stating that first-year employees make up 34 percent of its workers’ compensation spend.3

First-year employees are at higher risk of injury starting on their first day, when one in eight injuries happen.4 As employees move into their first month, they are three times more likely to incur a lost-time injury than employees with more than a year’s job experience.5 Across multiple studies and reports, first-year employees make up about one third of all workplace injuries.6

Newness plays a major factor in first-year employees’ increased risk of injury. New employees must employees adjust to a new work environment, new management structures, new daily rhythms and expectations, and new tools or machinery. They may also be unprepared for the true physical demands of a job.

Human performance evaluations

Human performance evaluations (HPEs) are physical exams designed to ensure that employees and job candidates can safely perform their jobs. At their core, they help prevent work-related injuries by measuring a person’s ability to perform the daily physical tasks of a particular job efficiently and safely. HPEs are most used in the pre-employment, post-offer stage, when an employer has made an offer to a prospective employee, but a contract has not been signed and the employee has not yet started work.

In compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a failed HPE can be used as a valid reason to revoke an employment offer. When considering an HPE provider, employers should look for an experienced occupational health organization with clinicians who perform compliant and thorough HPEs. This will help them get the most out of the evaluation process and avoid liability from discriminatory evaluations.

The makings of an HPE

A human performance evaluation begins with an analysis of the position’s essential job functions. A Concentra® physical therapist does this by reviewing the job description and visiting the work site to observe the role in action. After completing the on-site functional job analysis to observe and objectively measure the essential job functions for a specific position, the therapist will develop test parameters based on these physical requirements and then review the parameters with the employer.

All Concentra HPEs are performed by licensed therapists using our proprietary ADApt® program. Concentra designed its ADApt according to ADA requirements, using the same testing criteria for every applicant and ensure that the therapist only tests for things that will keep an employee from safely performing the job. Because the same exam is given to every employee offered a job for a specific position, ADApt prevents discrimination in testing.7

Beyond pre-employment testing, HPEs can also be used in return-to-work scenarios. In the same way that an HPE can help determine if an employee is physically capable of performing a job, the evaluation can also be used to make sure that an injured employee can safely perform the physical aspects of their jobs after recovery. When used in this manner, HPEs help employers know when their injured employee is ready to safely return to work without risking re-injury or putting their co-workers at risk.

HPEs in practice

In many ways, an HPE resembles a yearly physical performed by a primary care physician. The therapist will review family medical history, occupational history, lifestyle, and other general health questions to look for any red flags or potential job functions the job applicant is not able to perform. This is followed by measurements of weight, height, blood pressure, vision and hearing checks, and any drug and alcohol screenings (depending on job duties, regulations, and the employer’s policy).

What separates an HPE is functional testing, which typically includes lifting, pulling, and pushing in simulated job scenarios. For example, an applicant for a beverage distributor truck driver role may need to demonstrate that they can lift a full keg or climb a set of stairs while holding a certain amount of weight. An applicant for an auto parts manufacturer, on the other hand, may have a totally different set of job-specific tasks.

Learn more about Concentra HPEs

Research has found that pre-employment testing leads to fewer work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and lost workdays while lowering employee turnover. For every $1 spent on testing and human performance evaluations, employers save around $18. Additionally, data shared between Concentra and a major insurance carrier showed that employers who used Concentra’s HPE program saved an average of 32 percent per claim when compared to the insurer’s non-Concentra claims. This equaled to nearly $850,000 in total claims savings over a two-year period.

Concentra performs thousands of HPEs every year, and our therapists have a wealth of experience with creating compliant testing criteria through ADApt. To see if Concentra HPEs are a good match for your pre-employment and return-to-work needs, please connect with one of our occupational health experts or contact your nearby Concentra medical center.


  1. The Real Costs of Recruitment,” by Katie Navarra. SHRM. April 11, 2022.
  2. Breslin FC, Smith P. Trial by fire: a multivariate examination of the relation between job tenure and work injuries. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2006 January; 63(1):27-32.
  3. The Travelers Injury Impact Report,” The Travelers Indemnity Company. 2023.
  4. The Risks with New Employees and What to Do About Them,” by John Braun. Simplified Safety, n.d.
  5. Study Finds Persistence of Higher Injury Risk for New Workers,” Institute for Work and Health. July 26, 2012.
  6. Report: First-Year Employees Account for One-Third of Injuries,” Connecticut Business and Industry Association, n.d.
  7. Pre-employment Services,” Concentra, n.d.