Safety and health in the workplace
All the parties involved in a construction project (the developer, the designer, the project supervisor, the employer and any independent contractors) must take care of their own responsibilities and cooperate with each other where necessary.
The project supervisor, the employer, the developer and the designer can be held criminally liable if they fail to meet their obligations under the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Finnish Government Decree on the Safety of Construction Work (205/2009). These parties and their representatives can be found guilty of work safety offences pursuant to the Criminal Code of Finland.
The developer must appoint a competent safety coordinator to attend to the developer’s duties on each shared construction site in accordance with the requirements of each project. The developer must ensure that the safety coordinator has the necessary qualifications and powers and is otherwise competent to manage the construction project in question. It is the developer’s responsibility to make sure that the safety coordinator attends to their duties.
The developer must ensure that the project plans and preparations factor in the practicalities of construction so that the work can be performed safely and without causing any harm to the workers’ health. Safety must be built into the very designs of each stage of the project.
The developer’s design assignment must stipulate that engineers factor occupational safety in construction into their designs. If prefabricated elements are to be used, the lead structural engineer must ensure that the structural drawings do not contradict any special designs from the perspective of safe assembly and that the plans work well together.
While the works are in progress, it is the safety coordinator’s responsibility to ensure that the project supervisor draws up any necessary plans, including safety plans. The safety coordinator must assist the project supervisor in planning the safety of the construction works and in ensuring safety in practice.
The developer must, before handing over the finished project, draw up plans for the upkeep, general management, maintenance and repairs of the building, including sufficient information on occupational safety and health.
The project supervisor is responsible for notifying the competent occupational safety and health authority in advance of any construction works that are expected to take longer than one month and that will employ a total of at least 10 workers, including independent contractors, as well as of all works the scale of which is estimated to exceed 500 person-days of labour. More information about advance notices is available here.
On shared construction sites, it is the project supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that the site is managed in a manner that protects the workers’ safety and health as well as to coordinate cooperation and communication between the parties and the timing of each of the parties’ works, and to keep the site neat and tidy on the whole. The project supervisor must appoint a competent individual to attend to these duties and, if necessary, a second individual to stand in for them.
The project supervisor must ensure that any necessary safety plans and site rules are drawn up for the site and supervise that the plans and rules are followed in practice. The project supervisor must ensure that the division of responsibilities between employers and independent contractors is appropriate and that they work together to eliminate risks to workers’ safety and health and to keep everyone informed of any hazards on the site.
The project supervisor, individual employers and independent contractors must all do their part and work together to ensure that any information that may affect safety is promptly communicated to all interested parties on a shared site.
One of the project supervisor’s most important duties on a shared site is to ensure that all workers are properly familiarised with the site. The project supervisor must have the details of all workers and independent contractors working on the site.
On a shared site, it is the project supervisor’s responsibility to carry out weekly maintenance checks. These checks must cover, among other things, the general orderliness of the site and work areas, protection against falls from heights, lighting, electricity supply for the workers, cranes, person lifts and hoists, other lifting equipment, contractor’s saws, scaffolds, access routes and protection against landslides and trench collapses. Other issues that may affect safety also need to be inspected.
The project supervisor is also responsible for ensuring that all machinery, cranes and other lifting devices and equipment, scaffolds, movable moulds, temporary supports, personal protective equipment and other tools are in good working order, that they are appropriate for the kind of work being performed on the site and that they comply with the relevant regulations.
The normal responsibilities of employers also apply on a shared construction site even though the project supervisor has ultimate control. Each employer (subcontractor) on a shared site must appoint a competent and responsible person to manage and oversee the work that their employees perform. It is each employer’s responsibility to provide the project supervisor with the details of any employees of theirs who work on the site.
The Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act makes project supervisors and employers criminally liable for work safety violations and offences, but developers and their representatives can also be found guilty. For example, a safety coordinator acting as a developer’s statutory representative can be found guilty of an occupational safety and health offence if they fail to meet their obligations. Moreover, pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, any developer or their representative who intentionally or through carelessness fails to draw up a report or a plan required under the Occupational Safety and Health Act or regulations issued on the basis thereof can be given a fine for a violation of occupational safety and health regulations unless a more severe punishment is provided for elsewhere in the law.
Any person who is found to be criminally liable can be ordered to pay damages if their negligence has caused someone to incur losses for which damages can be awarded pursuant to the Finnish Tort Liability Act.
Structural engineers can also be found guilty of work safety offences.
Examples from case law (in Finnish)