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Work Ability Index

Work Ability Index
  • Finland
  • Questionnaire/guidelines
FIOH (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health)

The Work Ability Index (WAI) is an instrument used in occupational health care and research to assess work ability of workers during health examinations and workplace surveys. The purpose of WAI is to help define necessary actions to maintain and promote work ability. The scoring system of the questionnaire categorises work ability, with recommendations for action provided for each category. Appropriate action can then be taken to prevent declining work ability.

The Work Ability Index (WAI) is a validated instrument that assesses the individual work ability of an employee. It is based on practical occupational health care research.

Through a self-assessment questionnaire, the WAI measures a worker’s work ability and helps define necessary measures for maintaining and promoting work ability, as it helps to detect, as early as possible, work-related health risks. Appropriate action can then be taken, including occupational healthcare to prevent declining capacity and early retirement.

The WAI questionnaire covers the following dimensions of individuals:

  • their current work ability compared with their lifetime best;

  • their work ability in relation to the demands of the job;

  • the number of diagnosed illnesses or limiting conditions from which they suffer;

  • their estimated impairment owing to diseases/illnesses or limiting conditions;

  • the amount of sick leave they have taken during the last year;

  • their own prognosis of their work ability in 2 years’ time.

Each answer has a different score, with users calculating their total points to determine their final score. The minimum is 7, the maximum is 49. The four categories of scores and the objectives of the measures to be taken are as follows:

  • 7–27 points (bad) — restore work ability;

  • 28–36 points (moderate) — improve work ability;

  • 37–43 points (good) — support work ability;

  • 44–49 points (very good) — support work ability.

The results can easily be interpreted thanks to a grid, which also gives appropriate recommendations for action.

Additional information: 
The WAI was developed in 1998 by a working group consisting of members of FIOH and The Finnish Post Ltd, led by Professor Juhani Ilmarinen, departmental director of FIOH at the time.
The tool is available from a number of websites and has been used and disseminated largely by occupational safety and health institutes from all over Europe over the past 15 years. It has been translated into 24 languages, but it is not easy to find a simple, user-friendly format for this tool