Safety and health in the workplace
Occupational safety and health policy
All employers must have an occupational safety and health policy in place. An occupational safety and health policy allows employers to promote occupational safety and health more proactively and to systematically improve their employees’ working conditions according to their needs.
Pursuant to the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act, all employers must have an occupational safety and health policy. Each employer can choose to draw up the policy in whatever way is the most practical for their occupational safety and health needs. The occupational safety and health administration and the Centre for Occupational Safety provide templates to make the process easier.
Employers can choose to draw up a universal occupational safety and health policy that covers their entire business or prepare a separate policy for each unit. Either way, the policy must factor in all work performed in the workplace. The policy can be a separate document or incorporated into the employer’s quality or safety system, for example.
Focus on risk assessment and analysis
The first step in preparing an occupational safety and health policy is to assess how occupational safety and health management has been organised and to analyse the risks associated with the work. This is done by drawing up a description of the employees’ working conditions, including
- the types of work tasks that are performed in the workplace
- the environment in which the work is performed
- the human resources, tools and procedures involved, and
- the sources of work-related strain associated with the work and their potential impact on employees’ work ability.
Content of the occupational safety and health policy
The employer’s goals for occupational safety and health and the means to achieve the goals are laid down in the occupational safety and health policy. The policy also describes any weaknesses in employees’ working conditions and the action to be taken to address the weaknesses.
The occupational safety and health policy must include
- a description of the work environment and any weaknesses in the same
- information about the employer’s and the employees’ responsibilities in respect of occupational safety and health and how those responsibilities are divided
- information about the occupational safety and health organisation (e.g. the members of the organisation and their roles)
- information about the employer’s occupational health care provider and their contribution to occupational safety and health, and
- a description of how occupational safety and health are factored into the daily routines of the workplace, including the employer’s procedures for
- the continuous monitoring of working conditions, procedures and employees’ health
- familiarising new employees with their duties and the employer’s occupational safety and health policy
- investigating occupational accidents, occupational diseases and safety-related incidents,
- factoring occupational safety and health into purchases (machinery, work equipment, personal protective equipment, chemicals), and
- taking occupational safety and health into account in connection with changes (e.g. the construction of new premises and changes in working conditions or procedures)
- information about the employer’s safety instructions (e.g. operating instructions for dangerous machinery and instructions for dealing with violence, night work and working alone), and
- information about how employees’ work ability is promoted.
The policy can also include action plans for promoting equality between women and men in the workplace (equality plan) and for preventing discrimination (non-discrimination plan). All employers who regularly employ at least 30 people have a statutory obligation to draw up these plans.
Consulting employees on development goals
The development goals set out in the employer’s occupational safety and health policy need to be integrated into the daily routines of the workplace. Employees or their representatives must be consulted on the goals.
Both short-term and long-term development goals can be chosen. Examples include improving the physical work environment by purchasing new work equipment or reducing employees’ psychosocial workload.
Schedules and a division of responsibilities must be agreed for the actions set out in the employer’s occupational safety and health policy, and the employer must allocate enough resources for the work. Getting the entire work community behind the occupational safety and health policy is vital for achieving the goals.
It is the employer’s duty to ensure that the occupational safety and health policy is communicated to all members of staff and that it is kept available to employees. New employees are familiarised with the occupational safety and health policy in connection with their orientation.
Monitoring the implementation of the occupational safety and health policy in practice is the management’s responsibility. The policy and the goals set therein must be reviewed and updated at regular intervals or whenever circumstances change to a material degree. The policy should ideally set out procedures for following up on its progress and keeping the document up to date.
Familiarise yourself with your employer’s occupational safety and health policy. It describes any existing safety issues in your workplace as well as your employer’s development goals and plans for ensuring occupational safety and health.
Whenever the occupational safety and health policy is discussed, employees are usually represented by the elected occupational safety and health representatives. In small workplaces, the entire personnel can be consulted on the policy.
It is the employer’s responsibility to draw up an occupational safety and health policy and put it into practice. Employees must be consulted on the policy, and the finished version must be communicated to all members of staff.
The policy must be kept available to employees via the employer’s intranet or on a notice board, for example.