Fitness for duty (FFD) could be a pre-employment physical, a return-to-work evaluation after a medical illness or work-related injury, or a periodic physical exam. In all of these situations, an employee is evaluated by a physician to determine if he is able to perform all of the duties and tasks required for his job description.

Many factors are involved in determining whether an employee is FFD. When a physician performs a pre-employment physical, he will review the employee’s job description to determine whether a potential employee is FFD. For example, a desk job in an office would require very little physical activity as compared to a floor hand on a drilling rig.

The physician will consider if the job is safety-sensitive. Some examples are a boat captain, tractor trailer driver, crane or forklift operator, pilot, or a floor or derrick hand on a rig. A physician needs to evaluate each job description to determine all potential risks, especially when an employee works in a safety-sensitive position.

The physician also has to make sure the employee doesn’t have medical conditions that would keep him or her from performing the potential job safely. For example, would a boat captain or crane operator with insulin-dependent diabetes or seizure disorder be considered a safety risk? Also discussed at an FFD evaluation is the use of safety-sensitive medications prior to work, while working, while driving, or while off-shift on a rig. What medications are considered safety-sensitive? Are narcotics, benzodiazepines, hypnotics, insulin, or seizure medications safe to take while operating a crane or while on an oil rig? Are you really completely off work while off your shift on a drilling rig?

Another factor to consider is whether the employee will be working in remote locations. Is it safe for an employee who had a recent cardiac stent placement for a heart attack to return to work in a remote location in the Gulf of Mexico without an FFD? What happens if he has an acute complication? Can he be evacuated in a reasonable time if his stent re-occludes? What happens if inclement weather prevents an emergent evacuation?

As you can see, an FFD evaluation is a thorough process used to determine if an employee or potential employee is fit for the job task and job location. The FFD evaluation protects both the employee and employer from potential risk to themselves and other workers.

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