Screening for fitness for job tasks can reduce employee injuries and improve productivity, says physiotherapist.

Can Companies Screen Employees to Prevent Workplace Injuries?

Feb. 6, 2014
Functional capacity evaluations determine fitness for work. Smaller companies turning to FCEs to save money, promote productivity. FCE measurements include strength levels and stamina of certain basic movements involved in most job functions.

What happens when increasing staff costs meet tighter skilled labor markets? Productivity becomes an issue, with increasingly more companies – particularly those with physically demanding work – looking to minimize staff downtime and ensure that workflow proceeds as smoothly as possible.

One way companies in Singapore are doing so is by accessing and ensuring that their employees are fit enough for the actual physical work to be done. The physical fitness level assessment of an employee to do his or her job is known as a functional capacity evaluation (FCE). As the name suggests, it measures the capacity of an employee to perform the tasks that their jobs require.

"In the past, it was generally large, foreign [companies] that were asking for FCEs but these days we have done evaluations for local companies,” said Sylvia Ho, the principal physiotherapist at Core Concepts, one of the largest private musculoskeletal healthcare groups in Singapore, specializing in spors medicine, workers’ compensation cases, massotherapy and physical and occupational therapy. “We see increasing demand [for FCEs] in the future. Rising operating cost and labor tightness will make the cost of conducting FCEs more and more viable.”

Functional capacity evaluations measure the ability of employees to carry out certain functional movements. Measurements include strength levels and stamina of certain basic movements involved in most job functions.

Ho said she takes it a little further to combine a musculoskeletal screening that also assesses the body's muscle, joint and skeletal structure to provide information about things like joint flexibility. “With our physiotherapy background, we aim to take a more comprehensive approach in detecting potential problems that may occur in the future,” she said. “Our clients come from a range of industries, including the pharmaceutical industry, the oil and gas industry and heavy manufacturing.”

FCE is only one piece of the productivity puzzle, but one of growing importance, said Ho.

“Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has adopted a national, strategic and long-term approach to achieving sustainable, continuous improvement in workplace safety and health performance. We hope to play our role by helping industries prevent avoidable workplace health incidences,” she said.

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