Central West Health & Rehabilitation
P: (08)9965 0697 F: (08)9964 7528


Physical Assessment and Return to Work Jun 16th, 2015
Work health and safety laws in Australia and other jurisdictions also require employers to provide a "safe system of work". For example, section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 states that the "primary duty of care" is to "ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers" by, among other things, "provision and maintenance of safe systems of work".

Pre-employment physical assessments provide vital information for such decisions, and will find more and more value as our workforce gradually ages over the coming 2-3 decades. Information gained form Physical Assessments can also be helpful in establishing pre-existing physical capacity, whch asssits in establishing return to work goals.

It is important for recruiting employers to make clear to applicants the reason why health-related questions are asked pre-employment and the purposes for which the information will be used. 

Once a job has been offered, and accepted employers may, if they wish, ask additional medical questions. If a condition is revealed that might cause the candidate problems in performing the job, then adjustments must be considered. If no adjustments are possible, or the adjustment is not considered to be reasonable by the employer, then the job offer may need to be withdrawn.

It is important that an organisation ask the advice of medical/health professionals before turning down an individual for work on health grounds.


RTW is most successful if a clear return to work plan is agreed upon; the employer is willing to make adjustments to the person's job or working environment and all health-care workers involved with the patient communicate with each other .

Main Points

  • Be inclusive in your RTW process, by considering what injuried employees can or may be able to do, rather than what they cannot do.

  • It is important an employer can entertain reasonable adjustments recommended by an employees treating GP. Alternatively an employer must be ready to provide suitable alternatives to enable employees with MSDs to return to work, stay in work or access work.

  • There is strong evidence that return to work is most successful if it involves a partnership and understanding between employers, the worker and health-care professionals.

  • There is strong evidence that temporarily modified work can facilitate early return to work.