Material Handling: Determining an Appropriate Starting Weight | webFCE

Material Handling: Determining an Appropriate Starting Weight

man lifting box demonstrating combined lift/carry tasks

An important part of any functional capacity exam is the manual material handling lift. But how does one determine the correct starting weight for any given individual? Many vendors have designed specific protocols based on an individual’s sex. According to research, however, it may not be necessary.  

Material Handling Case Study: Maximum Acceptable Work Loads for Repetitive Lifting Tasks

In a 1988 study by Francesco Gamberale, research showed that it did not matter what the subject’s initial starting weight was during the material handling lift. The study revealed that regardless of the starting weight chosen (5 or 25 kgs), all subjects reached their same maximum acceptable work loads for the repetitive lifting task performed.

In other words, the inter-subject rankings (with regard to the maximal acceptable weight) were identical for all trials. This indicated the reproducibility of the results was very satisfactory. Therefore, the evaluator should decide the proper starting weight based on his or her medical screening of the subject.

We at WebFCE always recommend starting with an empty box. Taking into account the medical screening and using his or her best judgment, the evaluator should then determine whether or not to add weight.

Click here to see the full overview of peer-reviewed research on which WebFCE bases its functional capacity evaluations.


Gamberale F. Maximum acceptable work loads for repetitive lifting tasks. An experimental evaluation of psychophysical criteria. Scand J Work Eviron Health. 1988;14(1):85-87.