November 19, 2018 - Holly Foxworth

What Type of Testing Should You Require to Return to Work?


With over $250 billion being spent each year on employee absences, it’s only natural to want your employees back on the job as soon as possible, right?

But, following an extended absence for illness or injury, there is one question you have to ask:  Will the employee be able to safely perform their regular duties?

Facing the Dilemma

For example, let’s say employee Ron Jenkins suffers a back injury when falling from a ladder while painting.

He is out of work for a duration of two weeks while receiving medical treatment which has included:

  • Prescription medications
  • Physical therapy

Upon completion of his established treatment plan, how do you know he is ready to safely resume regular duties?

How to Determine What Test is Right for Your Employee

 While standard treatment and recovery progression can be estimated, no two injuries are just alike.  The only way to know an employee has the physical capabilities to perform specific tasks, after an injury or illness takes place is to evaluate and test.

When determining what type of exam is most appropriate for your employee, you should first start with the job classification.

For non-safety sensitive job classifications, a standard Return to Work (RTW) / Fit for Duty (FFD) exam may be adequate.  Think of this exam as a basic physical, addressing:

  • Employee release status
  • Physical / behavioral restrictions – such as lifting, standing, walking, sustained concentration, etc.

Safety sensitive job classifications may need to include a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) in addition to the RTW / FFD exam.

The FCE determines an employee’s ability or capacity to do the work activities of the position for which they are assigned.  It compares their health status and body functions to the demands of the job and work environment.

This type of evaluation utilizes the Physical Demands Analysis (PDA) to create the specific testing requirements of the FCE.

Examples might include:

  • Demonstrates the ability to crawl 10 feet.
  • Demonstrates ability to stand on a single leg.  Must hold and maintain balance for fifteen (15) seconds on the right leg and then the left leg.

Other screenings may include a Medication Review. The medication review reviews a medication’s effectiveness, dosage and potential side effects that could impact their ability to safely perform their working duties.

Whatever your unique needs may be, the goal is always to ensure the employee is safely able to perform their duties and prevent re-injury.

Ready to Get Your Employees Safely Back to Work?

We do the right thing for our clients by doing the right thing for their employees.

When your employees are out of work for three or more days due to a personal injury or illness, Axiom’s Occupational Health Employee Absence Management Services offer around the clock care to ensure a safe and quick return to work.

Our nurses act as a guide for the injured or ill employee throughout the entire recovery journey, keeping the employer updated of his/her return status. 

Besides evaluating an employee’s current disability and establishing appropriate treatment plans, Axiom also manages all the necessary documentation such as FMLA forms.

Give us a call at +1 (877) 502-9466 to find out how easy your return to work process can be!

Holly is an ER nurse by trade, but loves content marketing.  She was born outside the box and believes everything is better with “sprinkles and sparkles”.  She is passionate about impacting lives and uses marketing as her platform for sharing practical solutions to address real life occupational health challenges.

Find out more about our Injury Case Management services or our Occupational Health Programs.


Posted in Occupational Health Management, Return to Work Occupational Health Programs