Not all work may be assigned to young workers
Some job duties are considered so hazardous or harmful that there are restrictions on assigning young workers to perform them. There are also job duties to which young workers may never be assigned.
Young workers aged under 16 must not be assigned to perform hazardous work. Work is considered hazardous for a young worker if it is such that in it a young worker himself/herself or, through his/her job duties, another person may be at particular risk of an accident or loss of health. The employer must consult the occupational health care service in evaluating health hazards for young workers caused by the work itself and working circumstances in especially harmful and hazardous work.
Types of work restricted from young workers are defined by decree
A Government Decree provides for the conditions under which young workers under the age of 18 may be assigned to perform work considered especially harmful or hazardous to young workers. The Decree also lists the types of especially harmful work to which young workers under the age of 18 may never be assigned. Types of work considered hazardous for young workers are listed in a separate Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
Young workers must always be provided induction training for especially harmful and hazardous work as specified by Decree.
Especially harmful work
Types of work listed as especially harmful in the relevant Government Decree may be performed by a young worker only if he/she has the required vocational qualification or is in vocational education and performs the work under the guidance and supervision of a teacher. Also, a young worker may perform certain types of especially harmful work at the workplace under certain conditions.
The following types of work are considered especially harmful to young workers:
- work which causes excessive stress, in comparison with the young worker’s age and experience, or includes significant responsibility for the young worker’s own or other people’s safety, significant financial responsibility or specific hazards which young people are unable to recognise or avoid,
- working alone when the work involves an obvious risk of an accident or violence,
- caring for and managing psychiatric patients and mentally or socially disturbed people,
- handling and transporting dead bodies,
- working in an environment which exposes the young worker to harmful toxic substances, substances that cause cancer, hereditary damage or foetal abnormalities, or substances that can have other permanent effects on a person's health,
- handling combustible and explosive substances and easily flammable liquids under obviously dangerous circumstances, and
- working in an environment exposing the young worker to harmful radiation.
A young worker may only be allowed to perform especially harmful work if:
- the young worker has a vocational qualification,
- the young worker is in vocational education under the guidance and supervision of a teacher, or
- the young worker is performing the work referred to above at a workplace in connection with vocational education or apprenticeship training and there is an experienced and professionally competent employee continuously supervising his/her work (a report on how the supervision is organised and how the required induction training has been provided must be appended to the agreement between the employer and the training provider, and a copy must be sent to the occupational safety and health division at the Regional State Administrative Agency).
Hazardous work may be assigned to a young worker aged 16 or above if adequate precautions for safety at work have been taken and the appropriate instruction and guidance have been given. The employer must ensure that the machinery, substances or working conditions to which the young worker will be exposed do not pose a special risk of accident or health hazard to the young worker himself/herself or to others.
Also, a young worker of upper-level comprehensive school age may perform hazardous work that is necessary as part of teaching, if that work is performed under the direction and immediate supervision of a teacher. It must be possible to perform the work safely. Particular attention must be paid to ensuring that the tools and protective equipment are suitable and safe for the young worker to use.
The following factors are listed as hazardous for young workers in the Decree:
- Mechanical hazards
Certain equipment poses a cutting or crushing hazard.
- Chemical hazards
Certain substances and compounds pose a chemical hazard.
- Physical hazards
Physical hazards may comprise noise, vibration from machinery, cold, heat, or unusually high or low air pressure.
- Electrical hazards
There is a particular electrical hazard involved in working on live wires or in the vicinity of exposed live components, and in the maintenance and repair of high-tension current equipment and lifts.
- Bodily strain
Bodily strain may result from heavy lifting and other work involving unequal loading.
- Biological hazards
Certain biological factors pose a specific hazard.
- Certain other types of work (the list of examples includes other types of hazardous work).
A more detailed list is available in the Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on the List of Work Hazardous to Young Workers (in Finnish).
Prior notice of hazardous work to the Regional State Administrative Agency and to the guardian of a person in compulsory education
Before the hazardous work is initiated, the appropriate Occupational Safety and Health authority must be notified. The prior notice must be submitted to the OSH Division at the Regional State Administrative Agency of the workplace. When the duty is associated to the young person´s vocational education and is performed under the supervision of a teacher or when the young person already has a vocational upper secondary qualification for this duty, no prior notice is needed.
The prior notice shall be submitted by the organizer of the vocational education together with the employer when the hazardous duty is performed during the vocational education, for example during a period of on-the-job-training. However, organizers of basic education have no liability to make a prior notice.
The notice to the OSH authority must be completed when the conditions affecting the safety change substantially. Moreover; the employer shall inform the guardian of a young worker about the hazardous work and the grounds for it in advance.
Form: Notification when hiring a young person between 16 and 17 years of age for hazardous work (pdf, in Finnish)
The notification shall be made to the OSH Division relevant to the workplace. Contact information.
The OSH authority has the right to grant, and set the conditions for, an exemption to provisions regarding work which is especially harmful and hazardous to young workers. The processing of applications for exceptional permits is centralized to the OSH Division at the Regional State Administrative Agency of Eastern Finland.