What Is a Functional Capacity Evaluation?

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a set of tests and observations used to assess an individual’s physical abilities as they relate to performing work-related activities. FCEs are often administered as return-to-work evaluations after an injury (usually as part of worker’s compensation claims) and as pre-employment screenings. These evaluations are given by a certified examiner, usually a physician, physical therapist, or chiropractor. FCEs are designed to provide objective information about physical abilities, injuries, and illnesses.

Functional Capacity Evaluations usually begin with a patient interview, medical record review, and then a physical screening. FCE testing assesses several different factors related to physical strength, stamina/endurance, range of motion, and flexibility. These tests can be tailored to simulate activities during a “normal day at work” for a wide range of job types. Common FCE test parameters include:

  • Lifting
  • Carrying
  • Pushing & Pulling
  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Balancing
  • Reaching
  • Stooping
  • Kneeling
  • Crouching
  • Crawling
  • Object Handling/Manipulation
  • Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Hand/Finger Manipulation
  • Finger/Hand Grasp Strength
  • Cognitive Tests
  • Other Job-Specific Functions

During FCE tests the evaluator will also monitor the patient’s pain levels. This is done to both make a record of patient-reported levels of pain while performing these different activities, as well as to manage pain. FCEs are done on a “one-on-one” basis between patient and evaluator and can range anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. It may even be necessary to conduct testing over 2 consecutive days depending on the number of tests being run, the severity of injury or illness, and pain tolerance.

Worker’s Compensation Functional Capacity Evaluations

Functional Capacity Evaluations are most often performed to determine an individual’s return-to-work status after an injury or illness. This makes FCEs vital for worker’s compensation claims because they provide impartial, objective information about the nature and severity of a patient’s injuries or illnesses. The results of these tests allow medical providers to determine whether an individual is able to return to work, what capacity they can return to work in (full or reduced capacity), and whether the individual qualifies for worker’s compensation, Social Security Disability (SSDI), or other benefits. FCEs can also prevent false claims and insurance fraud.

Our team of FCE-certified physicians and therapists at COMP offers functional capacity evaluations for Colorado worker’s compensation claims, as well as rehabilitative therapy services for those who have suffered workplace injuries.

Pre-Employment Functional Capacity Evaluations

Some companies use FCEs as pre-employment screening to determine whether an applicant is able to meet the physical demands of the job they’re applying for. Ensuring that applicants are able to safely perform their required tasks beforehand can help prevent workplace injuries, increased insurance premiums, and loss of productivity due to missed work.

In pre-employment screening, it is extremely important to clearly define the purpose of the job, the “essential functions” of the job, and their associated physical requirements (lifting, carrying, crawling, etc.) This will allow evaluators to perform the right tests and simulate a “normal day at work” as best as possible to ensure that applicants can perform these tasks safely.

Some elements that can determine whether a job could benefit from pre-employment FCEs are:

  1. Physically demanding job tasks
  2. Highly repetitive physical tasks
  3. High-exertion, low-frequency tasks
  4. Prolonged or repetitive body movements or postures
  5. A history of workplace injuries that result in time missed from work

Our team of FCE-certified physicians and therapists at COMP proudly offers several types of exams, including pre-employment functional capacity evaluations, fit-for-duty exams, and physicals for DOT/CDL, police, firefighter, and merchant guards.

Why Are Functional Capacity Evaluations Important?

Functional Capacity Evaluations are important for several key reasons:

  1. They provide objective, detailed information about an individual’s physical capabilities, and/or workplace injures & illnesses
  2. They can determine when a worker is able to return to work after an injury
  3. They can determine whether a worker will be able to perform their duties at full capacity or if they will need to work in a reduced capacity (i.e. with limitations)
  4. They can help prevent re-injury or additional workplace injuries
  5. They can resolve disputes about the severity of injuries in worker’s compensation claims
  6. They can determine whether a worker is qualified for worker’s compensation, Social Security, or other benefits
  7. They help prevent insurance fraud

Are You Looking for Certified Functional Capacity Evaluations?
At Colorado Occupational Medical Partners, our mission is to deliver the highest quality of occupational health care and physical rehabilitation to return patients to their highest level of function. Our team is dedicated to employers and patients, and we strive to develop strong, positive relationships with a culture based on safety, transparency, empathy, and trust. To find out more, find our location nearest to you.

Let Colorado Occupational Medical Partners be your source for occupational therapies and care in Colorado.