Precisely assessing employees' physical abilities is becoming more important for two reasons. First, the Americans with Disabilities Act will allow you to measure a job candidate's ability to perform essential tasks of a job only after you've made him or her an offer. An offer can be withdrawn only if the candidate cannot perform one of the essential tasks. Second, with workers' comp costs going through the roof, figuring out when an injured employee can return to work is critical.

The conventional method of testing a person's functional capacity takes about two weeks and must be completed by a highly paid occupational therapist. The Ergos Work Simulator, made by Work Recovery, in Tucson, can do the same test in about five hours. That, naturally, makes it considerably cheaper. The price for a conventional functional-capacity test: $1,100 to $2,100. The Ergos test ranges from $450 to $750. Many hospitals and physical-therapy centers have begun using Ergos in their assessments. Work Recovery (602-322-6634) can refer you to the nearest facilities. -- Ellyn E. Spragins

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