Incumbent Testing: Employers Tackle Biggest Hazard in Today’s Workplace

Written by Joanna Morrow

Joanna Morrow, Principal and Founder of Employer Benefits & Advice, is an employer consultant and advocate who has worked in the employee benefits industry for over two decades. She works diligently to help employers overcome obstacles in their business by sharing her expertise in Human Resources, Benefits & Compensation, Process Mapping, Risk Management and ERISA/DOL/IRS compliance. She is a licensed life and health insurance professional in the State of Arizona and is an active member of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU).

Incumbent Testing: Employers Tackle Biggest Hazard in Today’s Workplace

Due to more automation, and largely sedentary lifestyles the physical strength of the average worker has changed over the years and it’s costing employers big money.

A recent study that compared the physical strength of today’s worker with those of workers 10 years earlier reported these findings.

Today’s worker …

  • Is on average 10% weaker
  • An average 13 pounds heavier
  • Demonstrates 18% less absolute shoulder strength
  • Demonstrates 23% less absolute knee strength

Weaker muscles translate to a higher incidence of injury and illness.

Jennifer Saddy, Director of Workers’ Compensation, Corporate Insurance and Risk Manager for American Airlines (AA) reported in December 2017 that shoulder injuries have now surpassed low-back injuries as the number one injury for ramp workers in terms of frequency and costs.

According to a study by Utah University*…

  • The increasing prevalence and cost associated with rotator cuff injuries in the United States population represents a significant economic burden for employers.
  • Rotator cuff injuries are the most common problem for the shoulder and account for approximately 4.1 million in annual physician visits.
  • Approximately 20.7% of the population has at least one rotator cuff tear and more than 75,000 individuals will have rotator cuff surgery each year.
  • Medical and compensation costs associated with a rotator cuff surgery are increasing and current estimated annual costs exceed 2 billion dollars.

Whether work related or not, the tab for injuries caused by reduced muscle strength is ultimately being picked up by employers. Health insurance, workers compensation and the costs associated with lost productivity soon add up.

Worse is that injuries that limit an employee’s ability to stay active ultimately lead to a more sedentary lifestyle which has been proven to increase the occurrence of chronic illness and disease like Type II Diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Testing for Strength

For decades, employers operating in heavy industry have used muscular strength and endurance testing as part of pre-employment screening process in an effort to avoid a would-be claim or as a component of return to work planning following an injury.

However today we are learning that the greatest risk for ALL employers is the loss of muscle mass and strength among today’s workforce due to:

  1. increasing age and
  2. lack of physical activity

Incumbent Testing

Until now companies have had little opportunity to legally test their incumbent workforce for muscular strength and endurance as a way to identify and proactively manage claims that might be brewing.

At Employer Benefits and Advice we are helping employers test the physical strength of their incumbent workforce within the confines of the law. Offered on a voluntary basis, this wellness benefit is quick to implement and easy to manage.

We guide employers in offering the kinds of incentives that will drive maximum employee participation while garnering the information necessary to reduce the risk of injury and disease within your company.

The goal is a healthier workforce that translates into reduced company costs and increased competitive advantage.

Physical Strength Risk Assessment (PSRA)™

In offering this unique health and wellness benefit Employer Benefits and Advice has partnered with Dr. Tom Gilliam, President of IPCS, an Ohio-based firm that uses a scientific, proprietary mathematical model in order to evaluate the physical strength of employees.

What Is It?

Dr. Gilliam’s PSRA is a 20-25 minute isokinetic evaluation which assesses a person’s overall strength by evaluating the knee and shoulder strength, and uses strength to body weight ratio to assess your employee’s overall health.

View this short video clip for a demonstration:

How Is It Different?

Based on range of motion, resistance, and speed – Dr. Gilliam’s isokinetic testing delivers scientific data versus self-reported that evaluates physical capabilities directly related to the physical demands of the job.

In addition, the PSRA assesses employee risk for injury such as torn muscles, rotator cuff issues or systemic issues such as Type II Diabetes and heart disease.

How Does the Employer Benefit?

Employers are provided with aggregate-level data via detailed report format that shares valuable information such as the overall strength of the workforce, where the weaknesses are, and the method for improving performance. The shared goal is to significantly reduce and in many cases prevent your company’s injury and disease claims before they occur.

How Does the Employee Benefit?

The testing shares privately with employees the results of their individual strength-test, identifying the areas to which they need to pay closest attention. From there, employees are shown how to increase strength, reduce obesity and boost functionality.

Where Is Testing Performed?

Dr. Gilliam, whose firm boasts reputable clients like American Airlines, Amtrak and the Cleveland Clinic has clinics throughout the country, including three in Maricopa County. PSRA testing can be done on-site at your facility using our mobile testing unit.

Help Strengthen Your Workforce

Dr. Gilliam and I are pleased to offer shared clients a number of valuable services. If you would like to…

  • Meet Dr. Gilliam in person
  • Obtain a sample of the testing output for both employer/employee
  • Attend a webinar to learn more about new developments in muscular strength testing for pre-employment decisions, incumbent testing or return to work planning
  • Participate in the testing yourself and experience the results first-hand
  • Learn more about incorporating strength testing into your existing health and wellness program, or designing a health and wellness program for the first time

Want to Learn More?

If you would like to learn more about incumbent testing and how it can help your company protect against high-cost safety hazards, contact me at 602-903-4047 or email me at We’ll be glad to schedule an appointment to address all your questions.

* Outcomes of Rotator Cuff Surgery in Utah Workers’ Compensation Patients, Utah University: