Election of occupational safety and health representatives

Election of occupational safety and health representatives

Employees have the right to elect representatives to speak for them in the context of cooperation in occupational safety and health matters.

In workplaces with at least 10 employees, one occupational safety and health representative and two deputy representatives are elected. Elections of occupational safety and health representatives can also be held in smaller workplaces.

Workplaces with at least 20 employees must have an occupational safety and health committee. All occupational safety and health representatives are automatically members of the occupational safety and health committee. The other members of the occupational safety and health committee who represent the employees are also elected.

The election of occupational safety and health representatives can also be used as an opportunity to nominate workers to represent a certain work unit or occupation in safety matters locally.

The employer’s representatives (occupational safety and health manager and members of the occupational safety and health committee) are chosen by the employer. In other words, the employer’s representatives are not elected.

Elections are organised by the employees

Elections of occupational safety and health representatives are regulated by the Finnish Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces. Different procedures are followed in different sectors of the economy. Information about sector-specific procedures is available, for example, on the website of the Centre for Occupational Safety. The information given here applies to all sectors.

It is the employees’ responsibility to hold an election in order to choose their occupational safety and health representative and deputy representatives. The election must be organised in such a way that enables all employees in the workplace to take part, i.e. to stand as candidates and vote. The election must not cause any unnecessary disruption in the workplace, and the employer must refrain from any action that could impede the election.

The organisers agree on the time and place of the election with the employer. The window for holding elections runs from 1 November until 31 December of the year preceding the beginning of the next term of office. It is the duty of the occupational safety and health manager to call a meeting with representatives of the different employee groups before the election in order to agree on the duties and size of the occupational safety and health organisation, the number of members to be appointed to the occupational safety and health committee (where applicable), how the different parties should be represented and the classification of employee groups.

The practical arrangements for the election are the responsibility of the current occupational safety and health committee or an electoral committee consisting of the employees’ representatives, which must have at least three members. It is the employer’s duty to provide the employees with a space in which to organise the election.

The employer must also provide the employees with a list of all employees in the workplace. A separate list of clerical workers can be provided if necessary.

Elections must be advertised sufficiently early

The candidates for the occupational safety and health representative, deputy representatives and members of the occupational safety and health committee (where applicable) are chosen ahead of the election. All those entitled to vote can nominate candidates. A list of the candidates is given to the electoral committee by an agreed deadline, which cannot be later than seven days before the election.

If the same number of candidates as there are positions have been put forward, no election need be held. If more than one candidate is standing for the same position, the election must go ahead.  

The election must be advertised at least 14 days in advance in a manner that reaches all the employees in the workplace. In order to protect the secrecy of the ballot, sealed ballot papers are used. 

Votes can also be given to individuals other than the official candidates. However, it is important to check such individuals’ willingness to accept the position beforehand, as no one can be elected against their will.

The candidate for the position of the occupational safety and health representative who gets the most votes is elected as the occupational safety and health representative. The persons who come first and second in the deputy representatives’ election become deputy representatives. The same procedure applies to the election of the members of the occupational safety and health committee. In the event of a tie, lots are drawn among the persons with the highest number of votes.

An electoral meeting can be held to confirm the appointments instead of an election if everyone agrees on the procedure and the candidates. The employees also need to be notified of any such meeting 14 days in advance.

It is the electoral committee’s responsibility to document both the voting process and any electoral meetings held instead of an election. The document must be made available for the employees to see in the workplace, and the employer must be given a copy.