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What do companies check when they send you for a medical?

An extensive medical test for a job sounds a tad daunting. What exactly are they checking for? Can you fail a medical test? What if they find out about that old injury, will it make you less hireable? If you’ve been asked to take a medical, firstly, congrats – this is usually one of the last steps in the recruitment process, so you must be doing pretty well. Secondly, don’t stress. We’ve got all your questions covered. The below info is from Jobfit – one of Australia’s leading occupational medical check providers.


Why is a medical check required?

Assessing risks:

Good employers take their duty of care towards their workforce seriously, and this includes understanding what risks prospective and existing employees might have. A pre-employment medical assessment helps to manage these risks in the workplace with the aim of avoiding illness or injury to the applicant or fellow employee.

Legal requirements:

Some jobs also have legal requirements and standards that need to be met, such as the national standards for Commercial and Heavy Vehicle driving, Rail Safety Workers medical, and Queensland Coal Board medical to name just a few.

The pre-employment medical assessment is part of the employment or deployment process and is used to assess your suitability for the position and the physical work environment for which you are being considered. This ensures you are not at increased risk of injury to yourself or other employees in this position.

So the gist is, employers want to make sure that you don’t have any medical issues that will leave you more at risk of hurting yourself or others in the job.

What does it involve?

Each occupational health assessment will involve a number of varying aspects, depending on the job you are applying (or employed) for, and the organisation in question. As a minimum, you will be required to fill out a health assessment questionnaire and undergo a medical examination by a qualified healthcare professional.

A medical examination:
You may be required to undergo a comprehensive medical examination process – from your blood pressure to your vision, heart, abdomen, limbs, and spine. You may also have your urine checked for sugar and blood, and you may be required to strip to your underclothes, so you should wear appropriate underwear.

A work fitness assessment:
For physically demanding jobs that are in remote and hot environments, you might be required to undertake a work fitness assessment (otherwise known as a functional capacity assessment or musculoskeletal assessment), so appropriate loose-fitting clothing and closed in shoes (preferably runners) should be worn.

Other assessments:
The assessment may (depending on the job) involve a chest x-ray, blood tests, urine drug screen, alcohol breath test, audiometry (hearing test), spirometry (lung test), manual handling assessment, fitness test, MRI and/or ECG. If you are unsure, ask the employer beforehand.

What happens if they discover a health issue?

The pre-employment medical assessment is not to treat health issues that are concerning you. The practitioner will provide you with a referral to your GP should this be necessary.

Will I be screened for drugs and alcohol?

The short answer is – only if the job has drug and alcohol screening as a statutory requirement. This is the type of thing you would be told before you go for your test. If your job does not have this legal requirement, then you will not be tested for drugs and alcohol.

More info on drug and alcohol testing

A statutory requirement in many industries, effective drug and alcohol screening improves workplace safety as the use of alcohol and recreational drugs can present a hazard in the workplace. Drug screening and alcohol screening is provided in a sensitive and professional manner.
Drug and alcohol screening services cover pre-employment, random or for cause, and extends to instant or laboratory-dependent on the requirements of the employer. You may be required to do urine drug screening for illicit drugs including cannabis, opiates (heroin), methamphetamines, amphetamines, benzodiazepines (antidepressants and sleeping tablets), cocaine and alcohol. Note that cannabis can stay in your system for days after occasional use, and weeks after regular use.

Can I fail the medical?

It is not uncommon for candidates to be concerned they won’t “get through” the pre-employment medical examination because of a previous injury, or because of a medical problem.

Employers cannot, and do not, exclude people because of this. Many workers have sprains and strains and work in a physical role. What the medical practitioner is looking for is to see that there was an appropriate rehabilitation from the injury, and to explore whether there are any ongoing risks that need to be managed in the workplace.

Some jobs do have medical standards which must be adhered to and are very prescriptive with regards to certain medical conditions – ask the hiring manager beforehand if you are unsure about anything.

Only health aspects that relate to the specific requirements of the job may be considered

An employer cannot refuse to employ a person on the basis of a medical test that discloses a disability which is unrelated to the adequate performance of the job.

Depending on the results of the test, an employer may need to consider making reasonable adjustments to the workplace to support the person to do the job.

For example, Bill applied for a job with a bus company. He is the best candidate for the job but an internal medical test found that he had a back injury and driving for long periods may make his injury worse. The employer requested further specific medical tests. The medical report stated that Bill could perform some genuine requirements of the job without risk to his back if some adjustments were made to the seat. Bill was then offered the job.


Do I need to be completely honest about past injuries?

It is important that you are honest with your answers to the medical history questionnaire. It is dangerous to place yourself in a position that may do you harm, and that your new employer may not be aware of.

What else should I know?

You will be asked to undress to your underwear to allow a thorough medical examination and to provide a urine specimen, therefore you should wear appropriate underwear.

If you wear spectacles, contact lenses or hearing aids, you must bring them with you.

If you have been asked to undertake a work fitness assessment, you should wear loose fitting and comfortable clothing and closed in shoes (preferably runners).

The time required will range from one hour to two hours for more extensive assessment.

So that the results of your audiogram (hearing test) will not be affected, avoid exposure to loud noise in the 16 hours prior to the medical – this includes loud music.

Spirometry (lung function test) may be required and you may be asked to use a Ventolin puffer as part of the assessment. Don’t smoke before the medical, or whilst you are waiting.

If you are on medication, make sure you declare it on your health assessment questionnaire as it will get detected anyway.

After the results come through, the employer should advise you of the outcome of the test and ensure that your information is treated with strict confidentiality.

Good luck with the job!

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