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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Finland

Health and safety laws

Health and safety laws in Finland are primarily governed by two key pieces of legislation: the Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002) and the Occupational Health Care Act (1383/2001). These laws outline the responsibilities of both employers and employees in creating and maintaining safe work environments.

Employer Responsibilities

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are required to identify hazards, assess risks, and implement measures to eliminate or minimize them. This includes providing safety equipment, training, and clear instructions. Employers are also required to take steps to protect employees from physical harm, ergonomic risks, mental strain, and workplace violence. In some cases, employers may be required to conduct regular health checks for workers exposed to specific hazards. Employers are also responsible for investigating and reporting workplace accidents and illnesses to relevant authorities. Additionally, employers must arrange occupational healthcare services, including check-ups, health promotion, and support in the event of illness or disability.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees also have responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. They are required to follow safety regulations and instructions provided by the employer, wear required personal protective equipment correctly, inform the employer of hazards or unsafe practices they observe, and actively participate in risk assessments, training, and other safety initiatives.

The Role of the Occupational Safety and Health Authority

The Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a government agency under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, plays a central role in enforcing these laws. They conduct workplace inspections, review records, and can issue improvement notices or sanctions for non-compliance. The Authority also provides information and guidance to employers and employees on various health and safety topics and funds research into new approaches to workplace safety.

Occupational Safety and Health Committees

Workplaces with 20 or more employees are required to establish an occupational safety and health committee. These committees, which include both employer and employee representatives, monitor workplace safety, suggest improvements, and handle employee concerns.

Other Relevant Legislation

Several other laws may apply depending on the sector and work activities. These include the Working Hours Act (605/1996), which regulates working hours, rest periods, and overtime; the Young Workers' Act (998/1993), which provides special protections for young employees; the Chemicals Act (599/2013), which governs the handling, storage, and labeling of hazardous chemicals; and laws specific to protection against radiation and nuclear safety.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a crucial aspect of any workplace, and it involves a holistic approach that considers safety, health, and well-being at work, including psychosocial factors and terms of employment. The primary responsibility for ensuring a safe and healthy work environment lies with the employer. This includes continuous risk assessment, preventative measures, and providing necessary training and resources. Employees, on the other hand, must actively look after their safety and that of their colleagues and participate in promoting workplace OHS.

Risk Assessment and Prevention

Employers must systematically identify, evaluate, and control workplace hazards and risks to prevent accidents and illnesses. The focus is on eliminating hazards at the source or implementing technical/organizational measures before relying on personal protective equipment. Finnish OHS follows a hierarchy of controls, emphasizing elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and finally personal protective equipment.

Workplace Safety

Workplace safety involves stringent safety standards for machinery, tools, and equipment, including regular maintenance and inspections. There are strict electrical safety regulations to prevent electrical accidents, fire prevention measures, emergency plans, and regular fire drills. Procedures for safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous chemicals, along with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), are also in place. Ergonomics is a focus area to prevent musculoskeletal disorders through proper workstation design, work techniques, and rest breaks.

Occupational Health

Employers must provide occupational health services that include health surveillance, health promotion programs, and treatment of minor work-related injuries or illnesses. There is an emphasis on preventing work-related stress, burnout, and harassment, and promoting a positive working environment. Proactive measures to support and maintain employees' work ability throughout their careers are also in place.

Training and Information

Employers must provide safety training tailored to job-specific hazards and risks. Employees are entitled to clear instructions, safety information, and warnings related to their work.

Supervision and Enforcement

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, along with Regional State Administrative Agencies, oversee the enforcement of OHS legislation. OHS authorities conduct inspections to ensure compliance and can issue improvement notices or sanctions if necessary.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections play a crucial role in Finnish workplaces, ensuring employee well-being and compliance with national legislation. The main objectives of these inspections are prevention, compliance, and development. They aim to identify and mitigate potential risks, ensure adherence to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and foster continuous enhancement of safety standards.

Regulatory Framework

Workplace inspections in Finland are governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces Act. These legislations outline workplace obligations for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment and define the authority of occupational safety and health inspectors.

Inspection Criteria

Workplace inspections focus on risk assessment and management, the physical work environment, chemical and biological hazards, the psychosocial work environment, and employment relationships. They evaluate the employer's approach to identifying, assessing, and mitigating safety risks, scrutinize factors such as machinery, equipment, noise, lighting, ventilation, and ergonomics, and verify adherence to labor laws.

Inspection Procedures

The inspection process involves preparation, an opening meeting, a walkthrough inspection, document review, a closing meeting, and an inspection report. Inspectors gather preliminary information about the workplace, conduct a thorough assessment of the workplace, examine relevant documentation, summarize the findings, and draft a formal report detailing the findings.

Inspection Frequency

The frequency of inspections depends on the workplace risk level, past inspection outcomes, and targeted campaigns. Workplaces with higher inherent risks, a poor safety record, or those targeted by supervisory authorities may be subject to more frequent inspections.

Follow-Up Actions

Depending on the severity of identified shortcomings, the occupational safety and health inspector may provide guidance and advice, issue an improvement notice or prohibition notice, or impose a penalty fee. These actions aim to remedy non-compliances, cease dangerous work activities, or penalize significant violations.

Workplace accidents

Workplace accidents are a serious matter and require immediate attention. Employers are obligated to report any accident at work that results in serious injury or death to the relevant authorities and insurance company. Even less severe accidents must be reported without undue delay. Employees, on the other hand, should notify their employer or supervisor as soon as possible following an accident.

Investigation of Workplace Accidents

The primary purpose of a workplace accident investigation is to determine the root causes and prevent similar incidents in the future. The employer is primarily responsible for the investigation but must involve employees or their representatives in the process. The investigation process involves gathering information, analyzing causes, and creating a formal accident investigation report detailing the findings and proposed corrective actions.

Compensation for Workplace Accidents

All employees in Finland are covered by mandatory statutory workers' compensation insurance. This insurance, obtained by the employer, covers accidents at work and occupational diseases. The types of compensation include coverage for medical expenses, temporary disability, permanent disability, and death benefits. To file a claim, the employee must notify the employer of the accident, who will then report it to the insurance company. The insurance company will assess the claim and determine compensation eligibility.

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