Crimes against occupational safety and health

Crimes against occupational safety and health

The law provides for punishments for employers who fail to meet their occupational safety and health obligations. Employers can be held liable for crimes against occupational safety and health if they violate the applicable provisions deliberately or through negligence and were aware of a non-compliance and did not rectify it.


In the context of liability for occupational safety violations, ‘employer’ refers to any person who commissions work in an employment relationship, a public service relationship or a comparable service relationship in a public corporation, and a person who in reality uses the power of decision of an employer.

The person into whose sphere of responsibility the act or negligence belongs is sentenced. Only individuals who were actually in a position to rectify the non-compliance can be held criminally liable.

Crimes against occupational safety and health are evaluated on the basis of the degree of negligence


Liability is allocated on the basis of an evaluation of which of the employer’s representatives should have exercised better care and who is therefore responsible for the non-compliance. In respect of crimes against occupational safety and health, the person liable is usually whoever directs and oversees the work on behalf of the employer. For example, the responsibility for training and instructing employees can be split between several members of managerial staff: senior management are responsible for organising and financing courses, middle management for planning and overseeing the training, and line managers for giving the lessons.


A crime against occupational safety and health can be deemed to have been committed even if there is no consequence, such as an injured employee or a safety-related incident; the existence of a non-compliance is in itself enough for a conviction. The evaluation focuses on what the person responsible failed to do.


Sentences range from fines to imprisonment. The convicted individual can also be ordered to pay damages and to forfeit any proceeds of their crime to the Finnish government.


The occupational safety and health administration has published a guide called The exercise of authority and reporting criminal offences to the police (available in Finnish), which contains information about the authority of inspectors of Divisions of Occupational Safety and Health and occupational safety and health authorities, what constitute labour offences in the eyes of the law and examples of cases that need to be reported to the police.


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