This is a question that we have heard over the years from companies that require a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) for employees in certain job titles – whether they are bus/transport vehicle drivers or public works employees. For many positions that involve driving certain classes of vehicles, the state or federal government require a driver to have a CDL. One component of obtaining and maintaining a CDL is undergoing a DOT medical examination with a DOT certified provider.
The main purpose of a DOT medical examination as part of obtaining/maintaining a CDL is to ensure that a driver is medically safe to operate the vehicles within the classification of their license. Priority areas of a DOT medical exam include assessments of vision, hearing, blood pressure, cardiovascular health history, metabolic health history (ex. diabetes), and an overall physical assessment. An assessment of the upper and lower extremities checks for muscle weakness or loss of limbs. While range of motion is addressed in a DOT medical examination, it is to determine whether the examinee has any potential range of motion issues that the DOT examiner may feel are detrimental to their ability to operate trucks and passenger buses. While an employer may be sending a driver for an exam, the examiner is not evaluating based on specific job demands.
The DOT medical examination does not address specific range of motion issues related to ingress/egress for specific types of vehicles (how high is the first step and the grab handles), the range of motion required to operate controls on specific vehicles, or the strength and range of motion related requirements to perform employer specific tasks (loading/unloading products/materials, securing items, operating controls, moving hoses, pulling down ladders, etc.). A job specific post-offer physical pre-employment evaluation (or depending upon the situation, Return To Work FCE or Fit For Duty FCE) can address the examinee’s ability to perform the essential minimum postural and physical demands of the position. Employers should have a customized job description that includes objective measurements of the essential minimum physical and postural demands of the job title. These measurements should be collected using the vehicles, equipment, and other items that are used by the employer and employees when performing their job.
Obtaining a DOT medical certification does not necessarily mean that a driver can meet the essential postural and physical demands of a customized job description. Conversely, meeting the essential postural and physical demands of a customized job description does not mean that a driver will be able to successfully pass a DOT medical examination (a variety of medical conditions are automatic exclusions in DOT medical examinations or require physician approved waivers).
NJ Ergonomics can assist with the documentation of objective measurement of physical and postural demands of job tasks as well as generation of Post-Offer Pre-Employment physical abilities testing protocols that are based on the essential demands of a job title.
In a recent podcast, Gary Vaynerchuk talked about Return on Investment (ROI) and the fact that ROI isn’t necessarily driven by what is spent but “is predicated on how good you are at it”.
This is so important in the area of occupational health and safety. Often, companies will purchase equipment with the best of intentions in mind – make the job easier for the employees and reduce the potential risk of injuries. But what happens once the equipment is installed and the trainers leave? This is an issue more often than not, on initiatives large and small.
Several years ago, I was doing an ergonomic walkthrough at a large retail grocery store. Towards the end of the visit, we were standing near the check out lanes. As we were talking, I noticed that one cashier was fairly tall – a little over 6 feet – but the cashier next to him was an older woman who was just a little over 5 feet. A few minutes before, the safety manager had explained that they had purchased adjustable monitors for the cashiers to be able to see the items that had been rung up. As I was looking at these cashiers, I noticed that both had their monitors set to exactly the same height. Despite the best efforts of the employer to provide equipment to make the job easier and safer, the employees weren’t using it. They did not adjust the monitor heights.
While filling out consent forms for a fit for duty functional capacity evaluation, a recent claimant repositioned himself in a chair in the lobby of our office that allowed me to see his feet. I noticed that one foot was in a walking boot. This was an unexpected piece of information. As I asked him about the walking boot, I learned that he had been working modified duty in the boot which was for treatment for a significant medical issue related to his foot. Both the condition and the walking boot required a quick call to the employer who he had not told about the walking boot. This employer provides safety shoes for their employees as it is a safety requirement for the position. Due to the fact that the walking boot was black as were the issued safety shoes, nobody had noticed the walking boot. A quick routine check of PPE when supervisors meet with employees throughout the day/week would have resolved this issue which could have resulted in greater medical issues for the employee.
For any project, whether it is a safety initiative such as safety equipment or equipment modifications or programs such as post-offer pre-employment or return to work testing, it all comes down to how good you are the program that you are putting in place. This requires constantly paying attention to how the program is running. Are supervisors making sure that employees are following safety guidelines? Are you making sure that your post-offer physical ability testing or return to work programs are based on accurate job descriptions? When developing a new safety initiative, make sure that you include follow-up and oversight in your planning to ensure that you get the ROI that you are expecting.
** For those looking for the specific podcast, it is the December 4, 2019 episode entitled “You’re Not Going To Know Where To Start”