Evaluating workplace injury risk with the FMS | October 25, 2013
A stagnant economy and an aging workforce are two factors motivating Ohio employers to find ways to reduce the frequency and severity of workplace injuries. Recently, employers have been evaluating options that meet these goals including pre-employment fit-for-duty exams. However, debates on the predictive value and the cost per exam often make them prohibitive for many organizations.
An assessment tool called the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) potentially offers employers an inexpensive alternative to a comprehensive functional capacity evaluation or fit-for-duty exam. The FMS serves as a tool to measure movement patterns and assess strength, flexibility and stability – thus predicting potential injury risk. The screen has seven parts and the employee will receive a score from zero to three on each movement – a three means they performed at the optimum level and a zero means they were unable due to pain. The screen takes approximately 10 minutes, and permits a trained professional to assess an individual’s weaknesses and subsequent potential for injury.
A score below 14 on the FMS means the employee has a greater chance of being injured. According to a study of female athletes, 69% of those who scored lower than 14 were injured and their risk of lower extremity injury increased by 400%.1
After an injury, the employer can assess a recent score against a baseline or minimum metric to avoid re-injury. In addition, a physical therapist can review the results of an FMS and provide an injured employee with activities or exercises that are directed at improving areas of weakness. The value of using this tool for reducing injuries in the workplace should be openly discussed with current employees as a way to promote safety.
The screen may also be used before or after extending a job offer to assess whether or not the applicant is able to perform the assigned essential duties, or as a measure to determine their ability to safely return to work after a job-related injury. Employers should consult their legal counsel about their ability to make a job offer contingent upon the candidate meeting the FMS standard. Legal counsel can further advise employers about rescinding in writing an offer wherein the candidate does not meet the FMS standard.
It is important for employers to be consistent in every case. If these standards are used for one employee, they must be used for all. The employer may also want to consult legal counsel regarding their employee contracts and assessments of the employee in a designated timeframe using the FMS standard to determine their ability to safely return to work.
Another key aspect of the FMS is recognizing opportunities for repeat assessments if prior scoring reflected possible risks for injury. Since every company and its employees’ job tasks are unique, it is important to stay consistent by understanding the value of assessing each employee’s ability to safely perform their work duties.
1 Chorba R, Chorba D, Bouillon L, Overmyer C, Landis J. Use of a Functional Movement Screening Tool to Determine Injury Risk in Female Collegiate Athletes. N Am J Sports Physical Therapy, June 2010