Functions of the occupational safety and health authorities

Functions of the occupational safety and health authorities - Yleistä

The occupational safety and health authorities operate in five divisions, one at each Regional State Administrative Agency. Under the divisions of occupational safety and health we enforce regional compliance with occupational safety and health laws. Our most important method of enforcement is occupational safety and health inspections.

Occupational safety and health inspection at a motorway work site. Photo by Anu Pynnönen.We also issue advice and guidelines concerning occupational safety and health and concerning the terms and conditions of employment relationships. We also process applications for permits and notifications of work for which legislation imposes restrictions or notification obligations.

Our duties include investigating the reasons for serious occupational accidents, occupational diseases and work-related illnesses and to take measures to prevent them We also supervise that the machines, tools, personal protective equipment and other technical equipment used in work meet the requirements set for them.

When we suspect that an employment  offence punishable by law has been committed in a workplace under our supervision, we inform the police. As the case progresses, we will be consulted as an expert.

We carry out enforcement at Finnish workplaces

As an occupational safety and health authority, we carry out inspections at workplaces where work is done based on an employment contract or employment relationship or in a comparable service relationship. Our scope of enforcement can also include student’s work in connection with education, the work of persons participating in employment measures or work related to rehabilitation and rehabilitative work activities. Temporary agency work, remote work and work carried out at another person’s home are also within the scope of our enforcement.

Our enforcement does not cover working entrepreneurs who do not have employees, except for work carried out in shared workplaces.

Volunteer work with no employment relationship is usually not part of occupational safety and health enforcement, read more on the Volunteering page. We also do not enforce communal work, recreational activities or professional sports.

As an occupational safety and health authority we can carry out enforcement not only on employers but also designers, people carrying out equipment inspections or the main contractors and builders of joint construction sites, to name a few.

Our tasks as an occupational safety and health authority do not include inspecting workspaces or working environments that are being planned and under construction or inspecting plans for machinery structures. The occupational safety and health authority is also not responsible for issuing preliminary opinions on other matters. On request, we can advise on the applicable legislation in individual issues under the enforcement of the occupational safety and health authority.

We do not inspect matters related to individual employer or employee advocacy, as these are civil disputes that the occupational safety and health authority has no competence over. Advocacy for example includes local and union-level negotiations to resolve disputes concerning employment relationships, court proceedings or interpretations of the content of a collective agreement.

The Enforcement Act determines duties and methods

The Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces, also known as the Enforcement Act, provides on the ways in which the occupational safety and health authorities supervises occupational safety, employment relationships and compliance with other occupational safety and health related provisions. The Act also provides on how we monitor cooperation on occupational safety and health between employers and employees at workplaces. According to International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, the occupational safety and health authority is independent in carrying out its supervisory function.

We work in close cooperation in occupational safety and health-related matters with employers’ organisations and trade unions. Representatives of the social partners are involved in planning, for example, the regional focus of enforcement.

The Ministry steers the activities of the OSH Divisions

The Department for Work and Gender Equality of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health issues instructions on occupational safety and health supervision in order to ensure consistency in enforcement, improve the quality of occupational safety and health inspections and increase transparency in operations. The instructions are drawn up by Regional State Administrative Agencies’ Divisions of Occupational Safety and Health and the Ministry’s Department for Work and Gender Equality, in consultation with key stakeholders.

The four-year framework programme describes the vision of occupational safety and health enforcement and defines the strategic objectives for the activities. The strategic goals determine objectives for the four-year period as well as annual operative performance targets.

Performance targets are documented in a national performance agreement signed by all Occupational Safety and Health Divisions and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The performance agreement contains information on where occupational safety and health inspections will generally be targeted. For example, inspections can focus on a specific sector or a law that has just entered into force, taking into account the scope of supervision.

The objectives of the framework programme are based, above all, on the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s strategy and the 2030 work environment and occupational safety and health policy, the government programme of the cabinet of Sanna Marin and labour market analyses (in Finnish).

Resources from previous years (in Finnish):