Are You Ready To Get Back To Work? Use The Functional Capacity Evaluation

4 July 2021

How do you know if you are well enough to get to work? Or as an employer, if your employee is ready after a workplace incident? In 2012, the Workplace Safety and Health Council in Singapore revised its guidelines for Occupational Diseases. One of the key approaches to prevent injuries is not to place your employees in a situation beyond their ability to cope. The way to avoid such situations is for the employees to undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation.

Functional Capacity Evaluation

Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a systematic method of measuring an individual’s ability to perform meaningful tasks on a safe and dependable basis. An FCE programme is for employees:

  • Who have suffered injuries that could affect their employment opportunities or
  • Whose current functional abilities and limitations need to be determined

Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) includes all impairments, not just those that result in physical functional limitations. In general, the purpose of FCE is to collect information about the functional limitations of a person with medical impairment. Beyond this general purpose, functional capacity evaluation has three specific purposes:

1. Improve the likelihood that the patient will be safe in subsequent job task performance

There will be a comparison between the patient’s abilities and the job’s demands. This diminishes the risk of re-injury associated with a mismatch. Shortfalls in the relationship between the patient’s resources and the environment’s demands result in stress or increased risk for injury. Numerous researchers point to the importance of properly matching the worker’s capacity to the job’s demands.

2. Assist the patient in improving role performance

This can be done through identification of functional decrements, so that they may be resolved or worked around. Health care professionals use this information to triage patients into proper treatment programs and to measure treatment progress.

3. Determine the presence (and, if present, the degree) of disability

This is so that a bureaucratic or juridical entity can assign, apportion, or deny financial and medical disability benefits

 Type of Tests

The basic approach taken by the Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) test is to ensure that the employee is able to do his job safely and effectively. A more labour-intensive work environment is the kind of setting the FCE is typically used. Examples include factory floor or industrial settings. Therefore, they generally cover two components of functional capacity –

  1. Strength and flexibility, and
  2. The range-of-motion of the main joints in the body that is predictive of impaired function to perform daily activities.

With these two components in mind, the FCE test is designed to match the actual job function of the employee. For example, if the job involves a lot of lifting of items from a specific height to another, the FCE will simulate that specific situation and measure the programme candidate’s ability to do the job well repetitively.

Generally, a standard FCE will cover a gamut of movements and activities found in most job settings. However, if there is an activity unique to your industry, FCE programmes can be customised.

Conversely, FCEs can also be used creatively. Some employers have re-designed job details in advance of functional capacity limits. Not only in a preventive manner but to maximise throughput. For example, knowing the level of strength the average staff can sustain for a certain number of repetitions is vital. In order to match this number of repetitions between lots, job or lot sizes can then be re-designed. This will give the employee a short micro-instance of a break.