Safety and health in the workplace
Volunteering - Ingressi
Volunteering refers to individuals performing work in a workplace without an employment contract or remuneration. For volunteers to be protected by the provisions of the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act, they need to agree on the details of their work with their employer. The work performed by volunteers also needs to be consistent with the work performed by the regular employees in the workplace.
Volunteering - Yleistä
Volunteering is based on the volunteer’s own initiative and will. In nursing homes, for example, there are volunteers who take the residents out for walks or help them with their chores. Volunteers are also common in the recreation sector and civic activism as well as in organisations that help people with their life management skills.
Only some provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act apply to volunteers. Nevertheless, it is the employer’s duty to ensure that the safety or health of any volunteers who work for them is not put at risk or in danger.
Volunteering is subject to a contract
Volunteers do not have an employment contract or a commission agreement with their employer, and they are also not considered to have a public-sector employment relationship or any other comparable service relationship with their employer. However, the details of volunteering need to be agreed between the employer and each volunteer. Volunteering contracts impose certain obligations on both parties. A separate contract must be made with each volunteer, either verbally or in writing. The Occupational Safety and Health Act does not apply to any work performed by volunteers who do not have a contract.
Obligations of volunteers and their employers
Employers have an obligation to ensure that the safety or health of any volunteers who work for them is not put at risk or in danger. The working conditions of volunteers and any machinery and equipment used by them must satisfy the requirements set out in occupational safety regulations. It is also the employer’s duty to provide their volunteers with information about any hazards and risks present in the workplace and instruction on using machinery and equipment. Volunteers must also be provided with any necessary personal protective equipment and shown how to use it.
Volunteers’ obligations include observing the safety instructions applicable to the workplace and using any personal protective equipment and assistive devices provided.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act does not apply to communal work
‘Communal work’ refers to a gathering of people performing work without remuneration, often with the objective of accomplishing a specific task.
Communal work is not subject to the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. However, there are also health and safety risks involved in communal work. The organiser of the gathering or the party commissioning the work can be held liable for damages under the Finnish Tort Liability Act if an accident occurs in connection with communal work. It is therefore recommended to also follow occupational safety regulations in respect of communal work, as with volunteering, and to take out insurance for the individuals participating in the gathering.