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9.6.1 Tools used to conduct Functional Capacity Evaluations

Last amended 
8 August 2023

Much of the following information has been provided by Dr Ev Innes, an occupational therapist. The intention is to provide some basic information for Rehabilitation Delegates about the types of FCEs, to help inform decisions about when conducting an FCE may be appropriate. It should be noted that most assessors within rehabilitation service provider organisations will only have access to a single tool.

Situational assessments may be conducted in artificial work environments or during formalised work trials. These assessments are reliant on observation by the assessor and self-reporting from the client. While functional testing is best assessed in the workplace, this may not always be possible. Therefore, a rehabilitation service provider may recommend a clinically-based assessment using one of the tools referred to below.

The Ergo-Kit FCE incorporates fifty five standardised work-related tasks, including lifting, carrying and simulation exercises.  The Physical Agility Tester, a component of the Ergo-Kit FCE, is used to test work postures and movements, handling and dexterity.

The Ergoscience Physical Work Performance Evaluation (PWPE) consists of thirty six standarised tasks covering six areas including dynamic strength, position tolerance, mobility, balance, endurance, and coordination of fine motor skills.

The Isernhagen Work Systems (IWS) FCE consists of twenty work-related tasks covering weighted tasks, flexibility and positional tasks, static work, ambulation/mobility tasks, and upper limb coordination.

The EPIC Lift Capacity Test examines an individual's capacity for occasional lifting and frequent lifting over three ranges, waist to shoulder, floor to waist, and floor to shoulder.

The Progressive Isoinertial Lifting Evaluation (PILE) assesses lifting through two ranges, the lumbar test from floor to waist, and the cervical test from waist to shoulder.

Baltimore Therapeutic Equipment (BTE) has three work capacity evaluation devices.  The BTE Work Simulator II assesses a wide range of movements associated with various functional tasks. It was developed primarily for upper limb assessment. The BTE Primus has application for the upper and lower limbs and trunk. The BTE ER Functional Testing System incorporates a computerised version of the EPIC Lift Capacity Test and the Functional Range of Movement (FROM) Assembly Test.

The Ergos Work Simulator consists of five work stations that use simulated work tasks to assess strength, body mechanics, cardiovascular endurance, movement speed, and accuracy.

There are more than twenty Valpar Component Work Samples (VCWS) that simulate generalised work-like tasks associated with industrial jobs. VCWS 4 assesses upper extremity range of motion. VCWS 8 assesses simulated assembly. VCWS 9 assess whole body range of motion. VCWS 11 assesses eye-hand-foot coordination. VCWS 19 assesses dynamic physical capacities.

A Jamar dynamometer is used to assess grip strength, often comparing bilateral grip strength with community norms.

Some other functional capacity assessment tools include: the WorkHab functional capacity evaluation, Key functional assessment, Blankenship functional assessment, Work evaluation systems technology, Jebsen hand function assessment, Bennett hand tool dexterity test, Purdue pegboard, Minnesota rate of manipulation test, and Crawford's small parts dexterity test.

Innes, E., Matthews, L. R., & Johnson, K. L. (2010). Assessment of occupational functioning. In E. Mpofu & T. Oakland (Eds.), Assessment in rehabilitation and health (pp. 466-485). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Pearson Education.