Pre-employment examinations for preventing occupational injury and disease in workers.

Norashikin Mahmud, Eva Schonstein, Frederieke Schaafsma, Marika M. Lehtola, Jean-Baptiste Fassier, Michiel F. Reneman, Jos H. Verbeek

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Abstract

Many employers and other stakeholders believe that health examinations of job applicants prevent occupational diseases and sickness absence. To evaluate the effectiveness of pre-employment examinations of job applicants in preventing occupational injury, disease and sickness absence compared to no intervention or alternative interventions. We searched CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO and PEDro (to December 2009) not restricted by date, language or publication type. We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs), controlled before-after studies (CBA), and interrupted time-series (ITS) of health examinations to prevent occupational diseases and injuries in job applicants. Four review authors (NM, ML, JV, ES) independently selected studies, extracted data, and determined study quality. The studies were too heterogeneous for statistical pooling of results. We included two RCTs, five CBA studies and two ITS. Seven studies with 5872 participants evaluated the screening process of pre-employment examinations and two studies with 2164 participants evaluated the measures to mitigate the risks found following the screening process.Of those studies that evaluated the screening process, one study found that a general examination did not reduce sick leave (Mean Difference -0.1 95% CI -0.5 to 0.3) but another study found that a more task focused examination did (MD -36 95% CI -68.3 to -3.8). One study found that incorporation of a bronchial challenge test decreased occupational asthma (trend change -2.6 95% CI -3.6 to -1.5). Three studies that included functional capacity evaluation found contradictory effects on injury rates and number of medical visits. The rates of rejecting job applicants varied from 2% to 35%.Neither of the two studies that evaluated risk mitigation found an increased injury rate after training or work accommodations had been implemented.We rated the evidence for all outcomes as very low quality. There is very low quality evidence that pre-employment examinations that are specific to certain jobs or health problems could reduce occupational disease, injury, or sickness absence. This supports the current policy to restrict pre-employment examinations to job-specific examinations. More studies are needed that take into account the harms of rejecting job applicants.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)
Volume12
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Cite this

Mahmud, N., Schonstein, E., Schaafsma, F., Lehtola, M. M., Fassier, J-B., Reneman, M. F., & Verbeek, J. H. (2010). Pre-employment examinations for preventing occupational injury and disease in workers. Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online), 12.