Finland: EWCO comparative analytical report on Information, consultation and participation of workers concerning health and safety

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 21 Οκτώβριος 2010



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Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

There has been very little research into real differences in the occupational safety and health in small-scale, medium-sized and large enterprises in Finland. Of all Finnish companies 99 per cent are SMEs. The legislation is the same for all companies with employees. Only the naming an occupational safety and health representative (in companies with at least 10 employees) and an occupational safety and health committee (in companies with at least 20 employees) are dependent of the size of the company. There has been very little research into real differences in occupational safety and health in small, medium-sized and large enterprises in Finland. According to the existing studies, SMEs do not have quite as good safety management systems as large enterprises, but the difference is not very big.

Questionnaire

1. National settings and regulatory framework (max 400 words)

- How is the 1989 Framework directive on H / S and in particular information / consultation practically implemented in SMEs? Any data available? Do administrative reports exist in particular from the Labour Inspectorate?

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (Sosiaali- ja terveysministeriö) has published a study ‘The effectiveness of risk assessment-related occupational safety and health provisions’ (Niskanen et al., 2009). Nevertheless, branch-specific and small companies-related results of the study on both the employers and employees can only be regarded as indicative, because the representation is so small. Medium-sized and large workplaces, on the other hand, are well represented.

According to almost all respondents (over 90 per cent), risk assessment was conducted in co-operation between the employees and the employer (at least at small workplaces) and the knowledge of the employees was exploited in the process (Niskanen et al., 2009).

- Does its implementation in micro and small companies follow similar patterns than in medium ones?

According to the National strategy for occupational safety and health (only in Finnish) by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the implementation of the legislation is the same in all companies with employees. See also the previous answer.

- Is H&S the current focus of legislation or did it evolve by incorporating “well-being at work” as the basic concept?

Current legislation treats H&S and “well-being at work” as equal elements and both concepts are used. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002):

Section 9 – Occupational safety and health policy

"The employer shall have a policy for action needed in order to promote safety and health and to maintain the employees’ working capacity. The policy must incorporate the need to develop the working conditions and the impact of the working environmental factors (occupational safety and health policy). The objectives for promoting safety and health and maintaining working capacity deriving from the policy must be taken into account in the workplace development and planning, and they must be discussed together with the employees or their representatives."

- The Community strategy health and safety at work for 2007-2012 calls upon the member states to work out and implement strategies to reduce the number of industrial accidents and occupational diseases; are the SMEs specially singled out in the national strategies and cooperation between social partners underlined / foreseen / called for?

The National strategy for occupational safety and health has been drawn up in co-operation with the social partners. Accident prevention is one of the focus areas of the strategy. The needs of small-scale enterprises have been taken into consideration throughout the strategy. In 1996, the industrial safety districts implemented approximately 31,500 workplace inspections and 5,500 other actions (permits, statements, etc.). In this context, attention was also paid to the development of companies’ own industrial safety activity by monitoring e.g. the creation and realisation of guidelines for industrial safety activities. Approximately two-thirds of the targets of these 37,000 or so actions were workplaces with under ten employees.

In addition, a strategy is being drawn up for the reduction of the number of industrial accidents and occupational diseases. It will be finalised by the end of 2009.

2. The micro-level settings: the role of H&S representatives (max 700 words)

The role of H&S representatives is defined in the Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces (44/2006).

- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards, is it legally binding to establish an H&S Committee in the companies? What’s its role and function?

Section 22

"The goal of the co-operation laid down in this Chapter is to improve the interaction between the employer and the employees, and to make it possible for the employees to participate in and influence the handling of matters concerning safety and health at the workplace."

Section 38

"At workplaces where at least 20 employees work regularly, an occupational safety and health committee shall be established for a period of two years at a time. Both the employer and the employees of the workplace are represented in the committee. If there are at least 20 employees in the company, it is legally binding to establish an H&S committee. Its mandate is two years. Its role and functions are:

  • To establish a plan of action annually.

  • To get acquainted with the working conditions and to make necessary development suggestions to the employer.

  • To get acquainted with the health and safety circumstances at the work place

  • To get acquainted with the plan of action of occupational health and safety, to look after its implementation and to give statements and proposals for improvement when necessary

  • To handle the implementation of occupational health care and to give proposals for improvement when necessary

  • To make proposals concerning the arranging of occupational health and safety training, occupational instruction and guidance and orientation

  • To take part in competence improving activities"

- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards are risk prevention representatives elected? Are they distinct representatives from H&S Committee and work councils?

Risk prevention representatives are distinct representatives of the H&S committee and work councils.

Section 29

"At workplaces where at least ten employees work regularly, the employees shall from among themselves choose an occupational safety and health representative and two vice representatives to represent them in the cooperation referred to in this Chapter, and to keep contact with occupational safety and health authorities. In other workplaces, too, the employees can from among themselves choose the representatives mentioned above. Clerical employees at a workplace are entitled to choose their own occupational safety and health representative and two vice representatives from among themselves."

- Does the H&S Committee deal with individual health related complaints? Does it have the right to initiate action?

According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the H&S committee handles ‘matters immediately affecting the safety and health of any employee’, but by law it does not have the right to initiate action. According to The Centre for Occupational Safety (Työturvallisuuskeskus) matters influencing the safety and health of an individual employee shall be addressed by the supervisor of the employee concerned and the employee. Co-operative matters with broad and general impacts are discussed at the H&S committee. If there is no N&S committee, co-operative matters are primarily addressed with the industrial safety delegate. At workplaces with no industrial safety delegate, co-operative matters as addressed together with employees as far as possible.

- Do regional/territorial risk prevention representatives exist, covering several small SME’s?

There are no regional representatives, but there are specific rights in 'shared workplaces': At shared workplaces where employees of more than one employer operate, the employer with the main control is responsible to the addressing of co-operative industrial safety matters. The co-operative partners are the employer with the principal control or his/her representative and the industrial safety delegate in the employment of the employer with the principal control. The employers may elect a shared industrial safety manager for a shared workplace.

"If the shared workplace is a building construction site, the employees working for the several employers there have the right to select a joint occupational safety and health representative and two vice representatives for the construction site to represent the employees in the co-operation on occupational safety and health with all employers and self-employed workers of the construction site, as well as in relation to occupational safety and health authorities" (Section 43c)

According to the Occupational Health Care Act (1383/2001), occupational health care is mandatory in all enterprises with employees. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, occupational health care organisation acts as an expert of risk assessment in 71% of the workplaces. The percentage is smallest in small workplaces. Other outside experts are used in over 25% of the workplaces. The costs of occupational health care are partly compensated by the state.

- Is there special H&S training foreseen for OSH representatives/committees? Is it adequate in order to cope with both emerging risks and legislative and technological changes in SMEs?

The Centre for Occupational Safety provides training for occupational health and safety personnel, members of co-operation committees (defined earlier), management, personnel administration and planners. The Centre organises about 200 courses (external and in-company) per year.

Short courses, duration 1-5 days, information briefings, ½ day:

  • * basic training on occupational safety

  • * special items on occupational safety

  • * one day courses covering current topics

  • * promotion of the work ability and well being at work

  • * quality and productivity linked to occupational safety

In addition to the training courses, special tailor made courses for individual workplaces are also organised and held, so the training could be considered adequate.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Työterveyslaitos) organises training, which strives to promote development of the work environment, work communities and organisations, to facilitate the management of changes, and to promote occupational health and expertise in these issues at workplaces.

The goals of the training with regard to impact are:

  • healthy and safe work environment

  • healthy worker whose work ability is good

  • work community that supports health and well-being.

- In order to carry out prevention policies, does a right exist for the H&S Committee to carry out surveys, call in outside independent experts? Who finances the costs of the operations / expertise? Does this right exist also in SMEs?

Not by law.

Operations are discussed in the H&S committee and it can make suggestions to the employer, who makes the final decision and pays for the operations.

- Does the H&S Committee have the right to consult the Labour Inspectorate?

According to the Regional State Administrative Agency (Aluehallintovirasto AVI) anyone can ask for advice in matters relating occupational safety and health or conditions of employment relationships from the labour inspectorate. There are six Regional State Administrative Agencies in Finland that started operating on 1 January 2010 (instead of eleven Labour inspectorates). The agencies’ tasks consist of those of the former state provincial offices, occupational health and safety districts, environmental permit agencies and regional environmental centres. The agencies work in close collaboration with local authorities.

- Does regular reporting, annual reports exist which describe enterprises occupational diseases, assess the occupational risks at the workplace and present prevention policies? Are they submitted to the H&S Committee for discussion before publication?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002):

Section 10 – Analysis and assessment of the risks at work

"The employer shall, taking the nature of the work and activities into account, systematically and adequately analyse and identify the hazards and risk factors caused by the work, the working premises, other aspects of the working environment and the working conditions and, if the hazards and risk factors cannot be eliminated, assess their consequences to the employees’ safety and health."

- Is the H&S Committee, when providing a high standard of working conditions and of occupational health and safety seen as a positive competition factor? Can the image of the companies be regarded as important in the context for winning major contracts? Do companies refer to the activities of the H&S Committee in their Annual report of activities, to the existence of day-to-day bargaining and the management of working conditions by the H&S Committee? Do and how differ the approaches between micro/small, medium and large companies?

Some companies expect a certain level of OSH from their sub-contractors. The Occupational Safety and Health Act decrees that an employer must have an occupational safety and health programme for the promotion of safety and health and the maintenance of the work ability of its employees. The programme must contain an estimate of the development needs of the workplace and of the impacts of factors connected with the work environment. Likewise the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that an employer must organise occupational health care for its employees. The drawing up of an occupational safety and health programme, a first aid plan and a programme for the maintenance of work ability is viewed as necessary and as a measure saving costs in the long run. This has increased the meaning of OSH as a positive competition factor. On the other hand a large number of companies choose their sub-contractors only based on the price. This causes negative impacts on OSH (Virokannas et al., 2004; Niskanen et al. 2009)

3. Social partners and the role of collective bargaining (max 300 words)

Please summarize specific arrangements on H&S for SMEs and SME-dominated industries, and how territorial OSH representatives could intervene at workplace.

According to the Central Organisations of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjärjestö SAK), 99 per cent of all Finnish enterprises are SMEs, so all industries are SME-dominated. In addition, 93 per cent of the enterprises employ under ten persons (Virokannas et al. 2004).

Agriculture, which is typically an entrepreneur-run industry, has a special compensation system for using voluntary occupational health care. It identifies the risks to the health and safety at the workplace.

There have also been other attempts to make use of public occupational health care services as a preventive tool as attractive to SMEs as possible, for example by improving related e-services (Virokannas et al. 2004).

What is the role of Social partners in drawing guidelines and implementing H&S and work organization intervention aimed to prevent work accidents and WRDs? What is the role of labour inspectorates, social security institutions, OSH services and national agencies in promoting local-level experiences in SMEs? Please summarize, if there exist, the extent of the cooperation between these latter and social partners.

Social partners can make initiatives to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. These initiatives are taken into consideration as widely as possible. Social partners usually also have more resources to develop specific actions. Tripartite co-operation is the general principle in all OSH activities (legislation, government platform).

As mentioned earlier, there are six Regional State Administrative Agencies in Finland that started operating on 1 January 2010 (instead of eleven Labour inspectorates). The agencies’ tasks consist of those of the former state provincial offices, occupational health and safety districts, environmental permit agencies and regional environmental centres. The agencies work in close collaboration with local authorities.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health operates in six different areas under the guidance of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The Institute is obliged to promote local activities especially in SMEs. The Institute for example offers training in OSH as a crucial part of a company’s operation, expert knowledge in OSH and produces material. For example, the Institute maintains a website and produces guides containing practical information for the development of health and occupational safety. The information covers, mental well-being, ergonomics, occupational health care, personal protective equipment, chemical safety, accidents and work hygiene. The guides published by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health can be found at https://verkkokauppa.ttl.fi/Default.aspx?tabid=209 (only in Finnish).

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health runs the Forum for Wellbeing at work (only in Finnish). One of the Forum’s aims is to create local networks of OSH specialists in the field of OSH. The Forum organises diverse seminars in different parts of the country. In addition, an amendment was made to the decree (501/1978) on the activities and financing of the Institute of Occupational Health which obliges the Institute of Occupational Health to actively promote regional occupational safety and health activity:

Section 20

"An advisory board shall operate in connection with every office...The advisory board’s task is to… function as a regional co-operative network for promoting health and coping at work and for prolonging staying employed".

The Ministries and different social partners also produce a lot of material to ease the action and increase the knowledge on OSH in the SMEs. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has produced several compact guides on diverse subject relating to occupational health and safety (only in Finnish) as well as some lengthier studies/guidelines on the application of legislation (only in Finnish) or about wider development of activity (only in Finnish).

4. Figures, quantitative and qualitative studies. (max 800 words)

Are there specific surveys which prove that standards of working conditions, health and safety within small enterprises as compared to larger ones are significant lagging behind?

When comparing companies with 1-49, 50-249 and over 250 employees, compliance with risk assessment-related occupational safety and health provisions in general seems to increase a little as the size of the company increases (Niskanen et al. 2009). Nevertheless, the differences are not very big and in some areas of the study small-scale enterprises obtained better results than large enterprises.However, this kind of a specific survey in Finland is the Quality of Work Life Survey (Työolotutkimus). The Quality of Work Life Surveys are extensive studies that involve between 3,000 and 6,000 people and cover the entire wage and salary earning population in Finland. Statistics Finland has carried out six of the studies: in 1977, 1984, 1990, 1997, 2003 and 2008. The surveys have been implemented as personal, face-to-face interviews lasting, on the average, one hour. They have included questions about the physical, mental and social work environment and the employee’s experiences of these, about work experiences, labour market position, conditions of employment, occurrence of psychological and somatic symptoms, work motivation, job satisfaction, work orientation, perceptions concerning gender equality and fair treatment, absences from work and reconciliation between work and family life.

There are differences between small and large enterprises especially when the question is about opinions concerning occupational safety (see Table 1 and Table 2). There are also some differences in questions about the hazards of work.

Do these surveys also investigate the impact of training, information and consultation over working conditions also in SMEs?

According to the study mentioned in question 1 (Niskanen et al., 2009), familiarisation with safe working habits was as common in small as in large companies.

In addition, there are some questions of opinion in the Quality of Work Life Survey, which measure attitudes and knowledge about working conditions. the statements in these questions are: A. Occupational safety advances well-being and safety at work, B. Superiors work actively at occupational safety, C. I know the occupational safety regulations and guidelines well enough for my work, D. The occupational safety organisation (leader, deputy, representative, committee) works efficiently, E. Occupational health care functions well for me. The reply options are: “Totally true”, “True to some extent”, “Only slightly true” and “Totally untrue”.

When surveys lack, are there qualitative studies investigating the impact of involvement and training on working conditions and health in SMEs?

There are no such qualitative studies carried out in Finland.

Develop on the findings / results. Please mention / enumerate / give links.

Here are some figures based on the Quality of Work Life Survey (2008). Firm size or the size of the establishment (public sector included) is divided into three categories: under 50 employees, 50-249 employees and at least 250 employees.

    Firm size  
  <50 50-249 At least 250
  n=2786 n=990 n=599
Occupational safety advances well-being and safety at work 85 91 94
Superiors work actively at occupational safety 62 65 69
I know the occupational safety regulations and guidelines well enough for my work 75 81 80
The occupational safety organisation (leader, deputy, representative, committee) works efficiently 62 73 79
Occupational health care functions well for me 80 91 93

It seems that the bigger the establishment, the more positive attitude and knowledge on working conditions (on the average) the employee has.

However, when the question is about employees’ experiences as distinct hazards, the situation is not so clear.

    Firm size  
  <50 50-249 At least 250
  n=2786 n=990 n=599
Accident risk 58 50 50
Becoming subjected to physical violence 32 27 17
Hazards caused by chemical substances 24 27 31
Hazard of infectious diseases 48 44 41
Hazard of skin diseases 26 22 23
Risk of strain injuries 62 59 56
Risk of succumbing to mental disturbance 26 30 25
Risk of grave work exhaustion 49 55 54
Risk of causing serious injury to someone else 39 33 34
Risk of causing serious damage to a valuable piece of equipment or end product 41 37 42

The employees in small firms experience more often accident risk, becoming subjected to physical violence, hazard of infectious diseases, risk of strain injuries and risk of causing serious injury to someone else, whereas when the question is about hazards caused by chemical substances, the situation is almost the opposite. This is, of course, mainly because these firms dealing with chemical substances are often large ones.

5. Good practices for SMEs: company/territorial level (max 200 words)

Are there well known examples for specific collective agreements in a given sector covering working conditions, H&S in particular in SME’s which go far beyond legislation? Are they exceptions or the rule? Please report at least one example at national level and at least two at territorial/company level.

According to the Farmers' Social Insurance Institution Mela Statistician, Inka-Maaria Näkkäläjärvi, agricultural entrepreneurs get a 20% discount from their occupational accident insurance fees if they have occupational health care. Occupational health care is a significant help in improving the OSH of the entrepreneurs.

To improve occupational safety in shared workplaces, a national policy called the Occupational Safety Card training has been developed. The implementation of the Occupational Safety Card is voluntary, but in practice it is the principal employer who decides whether or not it is necessary. The Occupational Safety Card training has been designed first and foremost for shared workplaces in the manufacturing industry, but it is equally applicable to the building industry, public sector, shipbuilding, etc. Occupational Safety Card training

  • Enhances practical collaboration between employers and contactors at shared workplaces

  • Supports job orientation at shared workplaces

  • Provides basic information on occupational health and safety

  • Reduces overlapping training provided by different employers

  • Arouses interest and motivation also for the occupational safety skills of the company’s own personnel

  • Seeks to decrease work accidents and hazards.

There is a network in northern Finland, which has developed common criteria for evaluating their sub-contractors. The criteria include matters relating to safety, health, environment and quality. The basic idea of the network is that the evaluation only needs to be done by one company. After this other companies can use this evaluation when they choose sub-contractors. This makes it easier the use criteria other than price.

References

Arto Miettinen, Timo Ruuskanen, Statistics Finland

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