Safety and health in the workplace
Every employer has a duty to continuously and systematically monitor their employees’ work environment, look out for hazards and any harmful effects of the work, and evaluate the risks posed to employees’ health and safety. Risk assessment and analysis allow employers to identify any weaknesses in their employees’ working conditions that need to be remedied.
The Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act obligates employers to look after their employees’ health and safety holistically. Identifying hazards and potential harmful effects of work is inherent to employers’ duty of care and ensuring occupational safety and health.
Employers are responsible for assessing and analysing risks in whichever way is the most practical for their needs. Risk assessments should be planned with care. The planning stage is also a good time for employers to think about how the continuous monitoring of the work environment and keeping the risk assessment up to date should be arranged in practice.
Assessing risks on the basis of severity and probability
Once the employer has identified the hazards in the workplace, they need to assess the risks involved. The magnitude of each risk is determined on the basis of the seriousness and probability of the potential consequences. The more serious the consequence and the more probable the event, the greater is the risk.
It is the employer’s duty to manage risks in the workplace. This means mitigating risks down to a level that complies with the minimum requirements of occupational safety and health laws and regulations and ensures that employees are as safe as possible.The safety and health of employees must be every employer’s number-one goal. Employers should strive to introduce systematic and forward-looking procedures that incorporate occupational safety into their business and management systems. This ensures that occupational safety and health become part of the routines in the workplace.
Your employer can ask you to contribute to risk assessments in your workplace.
It is your duty as an employee to let your employer and occupational safety and health representative know immediately if you spot a fault or an issue in your workplace that could pose a risk to health or safety in terms of, for example,
- the physical working conditions (e.g. noise, indoor temperature, handling of chemicals, poor indoor air quality, lack of order or tidiness, or poor ergonomics)
- the psychosocial working conditions (e.g. unfair treatment, threats of violence, or excessive workloads)
- machinery, tools and work equipment, or
- personal protective equipment.
You also have a duty to proactively rectify any faults or issues that could pose a risk according to your employer’s instructions whenever it is possible and safe to do so. However, even faults and issues that you can rectify yourself must be reported to the employer and occupational safety and health representative.
Employers have a duty to tell their employees and the occupational safety and health representative about any action that they intend to take in response to faults or issues reported by members of staff.
All employers have a duty to identify in advance any risks that the work they offer to their employees could pose to the employees’ health and safety. The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Centre for Occupational Safety have published a handbook on risk assessment in the workplace (in Finnish) to facilitate the process. Employers who do not have enough knowledge to carry out risk assessments should consult external experts (such as their occupational health care provider).
Any clear breaches of occupational safety regulations must be rectified immediately.
If it is not possible to completely eliminate an identified hazard straight away, the employer must assess the significance of the residual risk to employees’ health and safety. The findings of the risk assessment allow the employer to identify the measures that must be taken to improve their employees’ working conditions either by eliminating hazards altogether or reducing the risk to a tolerable level.
Some hazards can be eliminated by means of safety shields or similar technical solutions. Employers also have a duty to train and instruct their employees to follow safe procedures and provide them with tools and personal protective equipment to prevent accidents.
It is the duty of the employer to monitor the impact of the action taken to eliminate risks on the health and safety of their employees and to take further action to increase safety if necessary.
Whenever an individual employee comes forward with a safety concern, the employer must take action to remedy the situation and keep the employee in question as well as the occupational safety and health representative up to date on the progress of the corrective measures.
• Section 10 – Analysis and assessment of the risks at work
• Section 4 – Assessment and elimination of risks
• Section 6 – Identification of hazards and assessment of risks