Safety and health in the workplace
Division of responsibilities relating to occupational safety and health
The roles and responsibilities of employers, employees and other individuals involved in ensuring occupational safety are laid down by law. Pursuant to the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act, it is the employer’s duty to ensure the safety and health of their employees at work. However, employees also have responsibilities relating to occupational safety. Other individuals who interact with workplaces indirectly as well as parties responsible for construction projects have special responsibilities.
Employers have a duty to monitor their employees’ work environment and identify and analyse any risks associated with their work, take whatever action is necessary to address weaknesses, and follow up on the impact of the measures on the safety of work and the health of their employees. Further action must be taken where necessary. It is also the employer’s duty to familiarise employees with their workplace and the correct procedures as well as safety instructions.
Employers have even more responsibility in shared workplaces where employees of several different employers and independent contractors work simultaneously.
Employees need to follow their employer’s orders and safety instructions. They must also ensure their own and their colleagues’ safety while working and report any issues relating to safety to their manager and occupational safety and health representative.
Factoring occupational safety and health into work plans and workspace design
Other individuals, such as designers of the machinery and equipment that employees use to perform their work, also have responsibilities relating to occupational safety and health, as safety needs to be taken into account from the very beginning of work planning and workspace design. The most important decisions concerning the work environment are often made at the planning stage.
Occupational safety and health authorities have a duty to report any punishable violations of occupational safety and health regulations to the police.
- Chapter 2 – Employers’ general obligations
- Chapter 4 – Employees’ obligations and right to leave off working
- Chapter 5 – Further provisions on work and working conditions
- Chapter 6 – Special situations of organising work (e.g. responsibilities relating to shared workplaces)
- Chapter 7 – Obligations of other persons who affect safety and health at work
- Chapter 5a – Cooperation on occupational safety and health in shared workplaces and in preventing mutual hazards
- Chapter 47 – Employment offences
The Supreme Court of Finland ruled on a case in 2013 (KKO:2013:56, in Finnish) in which a factory’s technical director, operations manager and shift supervisor were accused of having committed a crime against occupational safety and health and being liable for a corporate fine. An employee had been injured while operating a press the controls and protective properties of which did not comply with occupational safety regulations.
The Supreme Court ruled in connection with a case in 2010 (KKO:2010:34, in Finnish) that a water utility company was a shared workplace within the meaning of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and that occupational safety was therefore the responsibility of the foundation representing the company. A manager at the water works had left a scraper rotating in a tank, even though the foundation had commissioned a limited company to build a cover for the tank. An employee of the limited company was consequently injured.The Supreme Court found a foreman guilty of a crime against occupational safety and health and causing a bodily injury through negligence by failing to ensure that a splitter was fitted on a circular saw in 2012 (KKO:2012:105, in Finnish).