Workplace injuries are, unfortunately, common. No matter the severity, when these injuries occur, it leaves a person struggling to work. Employers have an obligation to ensure workers get the care they need, but there is also the need to fully understand what types of limitations are in the employee if and when they return to work. This is where a functional capacity evaluation comes into play.
What Is a Functional Capacity Evaluation?
In 2020, there were a total of 2.78 million injuries and illness cases reported by companies, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, 4,764 fatalities occurred that year on the job. Many times, a person with an injury needs time off to ensure they are able to heal fully. Working injured is simply not safe and puts the company at risk for further liabilities while complicating the patient’s recovery. That is where a functional capacity evaluation comes into play.
This evaluation may be ordered by an attorney, workers’ compensation insurance provider, or employers. The evaluation includes a number of tests that are used to evaluate a person’s work-related physical abilities. The tests are performed by a third party who is certified to conduct these types of examinations.
Every situation is a bit different. In most cases, these tests are designed to provide impartial information about a person’s injury or illness. Some of the tests may include:
- Range of motion
- Lifting ability
- Ability to carry objects
- Physical strength
- Other job-specific ability testing
These tests may be very specific, or they could be an overall evaluation. The goal is to have a solid understanding of a person’s limitations based on the evidence from these tests. It is critical to be thorough to ensure a person does not return to work too soon.
What Are Functional Capacity Evaluations Used For?
The use of a functional capacity evaluation is to give an employer or other party more insight into a person’s current condition based on their injury and disability to find out what they can do and what they cannot. In some situations, it is easy to see a person is unable to work. For example, if they have a broken bone that is in a cast, that is an obvious injury. However, once the cast comes off and the healing seems complete, it is necessary to understand what limitations may still apply.
The goal of an evaluation like this is to have a professional, third-party individual evaluate a person’s ability in a type of standardized manner. This helps to ensure a person receives the best level of benefits from insurance coverage.
It is not generally possible to label a person as incapacitated or injured. There are different levels of severity involved. Instead of labeling everyone in the same way, then, the better option is to have a better way of understanding an individual’s functional capacity and abilities.
The ultimate goal of this evaluation is to determine how well a person’s current abilities align with the demands of their job. This is then used to determine if a person can work or, in some cases, if they can work with restrictions or limitations.
Importance of Functional Capacity
The importance of functional capacity differs depending on the scope of the situation. As they are often used as a part of a workers’ compensation claim, they are important for a number of reasons.
- Can a person return to work? The ultimate first question answered by these evaluations is whether or not an employee can return to work. It helps to determine what place they are in the healing process. The information provided by the tests within this evaluation can help answer that question.
- Can a person return to work at a reduced capacity? This evaluation is not meant to rush a person back to work. Rather, it looks at whether it is safe for a person to return. Sometimes they can return, but they may not be able to do as much just yet. Pushing too hard, lifting too much, or otherwise can cause muscle damage. The goal is to help an employee to get back to work in a safe manner.
- Prevention of workplace injuries. The functional capacity evaluation also helps reduce the risk that a returning employee is likely to be hurt at work if they return. If the employee returns, are they at a higher risk of being injured again or more likely to fall? If so, it may not be desirable for them to return.
- Resolving disputes. There are often situations where the insurer and the employer or worker do not agree with the level of disability a person states. This evaluation can help determine what the facts show so that a better understanding of return to work can be assessed.
- More information about conditions. In some situations, this type of evaluation is thorough enough to pinpoint more information about the injury or illness, such as getting a better understanding of the limitations the individual has. This may allow for better decision making.
A core benefit of this type of evaluation is to truly ensure that a person returns to work if and when it is possible and that they receive the Social Security, disability, workers’ compensation, or other benefits they deserve based on their current condition and health. Because this type of evaluation is done by a third party, it is more accurate, which can alleviate tensions on either side. It aims to provide a true, full assessment that is fair.
Let Us Help You to Complete a Functional Capacity Evaluation
For those that need to have a functional capacity evaluation completed, it does not have to be anything to worry about or stress over. When you meet our team, you will find we are dedicated professionals that can help ensure accurate information is presented.
Rock Valley PT is focused on patients first. Always. We work to be as compassionate as possible in everything we do. When you turn to us, the largest therapist-led organization in the country (and we’re proud of it) you can expect exceptional care and attention to your needs.
Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer and how we can help you meet all of your goals.