National OSH Strategy - Finland

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Introduction

In the European Union, the strategic framework on OSH is used to develop the EU policy on OSH and coordinate the national policies of the Member States. The EU strategic framework identifies key challenges and strategic objectives for health and safety at work and presents actions and instruments to address these in the coming years.

The EU strategic framework (2021 – 2027) addresses the changing needs in worker’s protection brought by the digital and green transitions, new forms of work and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the framework will continue to address traditional occupational safety and health risks, such as risks of accidents at work, exposure to hazardous chemicals musculoskeletal disorders or mental health problems. The success of the framework depends on its implementation at EU, national, sectoral and enterprise levels.

National strategies are well known as a policy instrument to enhance the effectiveness of an OSH system through the collaborative and smart use of resources. They include approaches such as priority setting, prior action defining and action plans. The Commission calls on Member States to update and draw up their national occupational safety and health strategies in line with this strategic framework - in cooperation with social partners - to ensure that the new measures reach the workplace.

In Finland, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health - MSAH prepares and develops legislation and policies on occupational safety and health and deals with international cooperation in this field. The ministry also guides the occupational safety and health work of the Regional State Administrative Agencies.

Basic information on the national OSH strategy

Health, safety and well-being are important common values, which are put into practice in every workplace and for every employee. Together with its stakeholders, the Ministry of Social affairs and Health, has prepared the policy for the work environment and wellbeing at work. The main strategic document for the work environment: Työympäristön ja työhyvinvoinnin linjaukset vuoteen 2030[1]. English version: Policy for the work environment and wellbeing at work until 2030 - “Safe and healthy working conditions and workability for everyone"[2]. To implement the policy a separate implementation plan is made together with social partners and other key stakeholders. The implementation plan is available in Finish, Swedish, and English.

Turvallisia ja terveellisiä työoloja sekä työkykyä kaikille Työympäristön ja työhyvinvoinnin linjaukset vuoteen 2030. Toimeenpanosuunnitelma vuosille 2022–2023[3].

English version: Safe and healthy working conditions and work ability for everyone. Policy for the work environment and wellbeing at work until 2030. Implementation plan 2022–2023[4].

Background and the perceived problem

The policy aims at fostering healthy and safe work at all workplaces regardless of the form of employment. The goal is for Finland to remain a welfare state even as the population ages and the number of working-age people decreases.

The vision of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is to create a cohesive society and sustainable wellbeing[5]. The mission of the strategy of the Ministry is to safeguard people’s ability to work and function, their livelihoods, as well as the services required to support this.

The Ministry’s strategy selected five strategic goals to achieve the vision[6]:

  • Active inclusion of people
  • Integrated services and benefits
  • Financial sustainability
  • Safe and healthy living and working environment
  • Wellbeing in work transformation

The creation of a cohesive society and sustainable well-being forms the vision that guides the activities of Finland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the agencies within the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Group. The strategic impact targets are based on reflections on alternative future scenarios. At the start of 2021, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Group adopted a rolling strategy. This means that from now on the strategy will be reviewed regularly, taking into account possible changes in the operating environment. This allows to take into account new challenges and unforeseen circumstances and to adjust the strategy.

Main characteristics and objectives of the OSH-strategy (implementation plan)

The Policy for the work environment and wellbeing at work until 2030 specifies the strategy of the Ministry. It aims at fostering healthy and safe work at all workplaces regardless of the form of employment, working life, the contents of work, the ways and modes of working as well as Finland’s workforce are undergoing a transformation. The policy extends to the year 2030 and is updated regularly.

The policy has three focus areas:

  • Future challenges concerning occupational safety and health, and wellbeing at work,
  • Safe and healthy working conditions,
  • Promoting functional capacity, work ability, and employability

The implementation plan 2022–2023 gives concrete expression to the actions by which the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and its partners will jointly contribute to achieving the goals of the focus areas in 2022–2023. The implementation plan has been drawn up with the participation of a wide range of actors in working life, from ministries to labour market organisations, research and development organisations and other actors in working life.

Details of action plan

The objective of the policy is to ensure safe and healthy working conditions and workability for everyone. The policy defines three focus areas to ensure healthy and safe work at all workplaces, regardless of the form of employment. The regional occupational safety and health administration is responsible for supervising that employer fulfil their statutory obligations[7].

The strategic objectives set in the framework plan have been split into impact objectives. They specify the strategic objective specifically for matters under the influence of occupational health and safety supervision. Impact objectives are split into performance targets on an annual basis.

Axis description

Focus Area 1 - Future challenges concerning occupational safety and health, and wellbeing at work

  • To rise up the future work challenges concerning occupational safety and health.

The potential risks posed by new technologies and forms of work must be identified, prevented and minimised, and their effects on health must be assessed.

We have comprehensive and smooth safety and health regulations that guarantee the occupational health and safety of employees under all circumstances and are applicable to the current situation in working life. The necessary changes will be made in a controlled manner in cooperation with the social partners. Organisations guiding and supporting occupational health and safety, employers, employees and entrepreneurs, as well as other actors in working life, are dynamic and together build trust and rules in working life.”

Objective: Effective up-to-date legislation and performance management

Actions:

  • The preparation of legislation is guided by a formal process. Occupational health and safety legislation is prepared in tripartite cooperation and matters are discussed by the Advisory Board for the Preparation of OSH Provisions. If necessary, other ministries and stakeholders are also consulted in the preparation.
  • Future work challenges related to occupational health and safety have been taken into account in the Framework programme for occupational safety and health enforcement.

Objective: Foresight in the transformation of work (taking into account the entries in the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work)

Actions:

  • An up-to-date picture of the situation in working life is compiled and maintained, analysed and regularly discussed in society, the necessary measures are agreed on and the confidence and resilience of working life are strengthened.
  • The analysis, foresight and sharing of data (‘silent signals’) as well as the generation and use of gender-analysed data are developed. Megatrends affecting work and working conditions are also taken into account at the international level.
  • Effective collaboration and cooperation at workplaces are ensured and supported.

Objective: Supporting workplaces’ occupational health and safety work (taking into account the entries in the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work)

  • Government Resolution “Occupational Health 2025 - Health and work ability through cooperation” objectives 1* and 6**. Responding to workplace needs with information, operating models, networks, etc.
  • Opportunities for financial incentives for the development of occupational safety are explored.
  • Development of continuous learning in working life.

Focus Area 2 - Safe and healthy working conditions

  • To ensure safe and healthy working conditions

The management of accident prevention, chemical agents, biological agents and physical strain was selected as key phenomena for 2020–2023. The objective is to continue to invest in the reduction of accidents at work, occupational diseases and other work-related illnesses, as well as in the reduction of harmful strain.

“Work is healthy and safe regardless of the sector, the form of employment or the size of the workplace. Occupational health and safety issues are part of the organisation’s strategic management. Everyone who enters and operates in working life, whether as an employer, employee or entrepreneur, has sufficient occupational health and safety expertise. Every accident at work and work-related illness or disability can be prevented by measures based on hazard identification and risk management.”

Objective: New and old risks are managed and working life resources increased

Actions:

  • The importance of foresight and risk management is emphasised, and information and guidance are produced for the assessment and management of risks. Information on new risks in the changing working life and on safety hazards (including biological factors), technologies and new ways of working, especially for young workers, is produced and disseminated. The opportunities and risks of a green transition are taken into account.
  • Management of psychosocial stress in work and working conditions, measures at workplaces
  • The resources and strengths of working life in returning to the new normal: Maintenance of good working practices and elimination of bad practices. Observation and reinforcement of positive developments. Observation and interruption of negative developments. Competence development and the utilisation and dissemination of existing knowledge.
  • Government Resolution “Occupational Health 2025 - Health and work ability through cooperation” objectives 3[8] and 4[9].

Objective: Development of safety management and safety culture (taking into account the entries in the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work)

Actions:

  • Raising the topic of occupational safety in social debate. The willingness and ability of as many people as possible to continue working for a sufficiently long time, with motivation, is developed and strengthened. Attention is paid to the importance of occupational safety issues and to motivating and awakening their promotion, taking into account the different development paths of workplaces. Consistent use of concepts and their possible adjustment in a positive direction. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work campaigns and Focal Point activities
  • Wellbeing at work and productivity are developed at the same time. The renewal of operating methods, utilisation of new technology, a working culture based on cooperation and trust at workplaces, the identification of competence needs, and proactive competence development are strengthened.
  • Spreading Vision Zero thinking and raising awareness.
  • Occupational disease notification: available to the doctor in the patient information system, from where it would be submitted to the occupational safety and health authority and to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Register of Occupational Diseases. The register is used to produce Finland’s official statistics on occupational diseases.

Objective: Prevention of violence, harassment and inappropriate treatment in the workplace

Actions:

  • Up-to-date information is maintained and new methods developed, and information is disseminated to prevent violence, harassment and other inappropriate treatment. Adoption and entry into force of ILO Convention 190 and implementation of the Government action plan for gender equality.

Focus Area 3 - Promoting functional capacity, workability, and employability

  • To promote functional capacity, work ability, and employability

Management of work ability and wellbeing at work plays an important role in reducing disability and promoting health and wellbeing.

“Work ability management and the promotion of wellbeing at work are part of the management of companies and other organisations. The work must be dimensioned according to the person doing it. Taking care of one’s own work ability is part of every person’s working life skills. At each workplace, the employer, personnel and occupational health care services implement joint measures for work ability and return to work. The retention and employment of persons with partial work ability are supported.”

Objective: Supporting workplaces and strengthening competence in the promotion of wellbeing at work, work ability and health (taking into account the entries in the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work)

  • Increasing the preconditions for the employment of unemployed persons with partial work ability, increasing their work ability, functional capacity and social inclusion. Development of a multidisciplinary service system in such a way that the need for support for the work ability of the unemployed is identified and they receive individual and timely services related to work ability and employment. The creation of jobs is promoted, taking into account the employment of persons with partial work ability, and services are developed for employers to facilitate the recruitment of persons with partial work ability. Rehabilitation paths and rehabilitation services in use are reformed based on the proposals of the rehabilitation reform committee. Solutions are sought to lower the recruitment threshold for persons with partial work ability, both by developing services and by participating in the preparation of the social security reform.
  • Changing the support for mental health in working life from solving problems that have already arisen in an individual focused way to activities that emphasise the prevention of work ability problems, which are implemented in workplace cooperation and occupational health cooperation. Development of models and tools for the use of workplace and occupational health cooperation. Supporting change in the operating culture and dismantling the stigma.
  • Closer cooperation between occupational health and safety issues and public health policy.

Objective: Functional integration of occupational health care into other health care

  • Government Resolution – Occupational “Health 2025 - Health and work ability through cooperation” objectives 2* and 5**
  • Research related to the work ability and functional capacity of people of working age that is necessary for the development of service systems is ensured. The construction of an overall picture of the health and work ability maintenance activities for the working-age population is promoted.

Actors and stakeholders

The Ministry is responsible for supervising, improving and regulating safety and health at work in Finland. The implementation plan has been drawn up with the participation of a wide range of actors in working life, from ministries (to labour market organisations, research and development organisations and other actors in working life. The tripartite approach to setting targets is an important principle that has been taken into account.

Resources and time frame

The policy for the work environment and wellbeing at work until 2030, implementation plan covers the period from 2022 to 2023.

Occupational safety and health activities are based on cooperation. OSH actors contribute to the achievement of OSH objectives through their own operations. The OSH administration works in close cooperation with labour market organisations and other important stakeholders in such tasks as the setting of enforcement priorities, preparing of legislation and communications. Cooperation takes place at national and regional level in working groups and projects[10]. Enforcement is mainly carried out by means of workplace inspections.

Budget: Public and private organisations and NGOs have their own budget plan for the implementation of the OSH strategy.

Evaluation

The Policy for the work environment and wellbeing at work until 2030 includes indicators that will be assessed regularly together with social partners and other key stakeholders. The implementation and effectiveness of the objectives are monitored annually at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in cooperation with stakeholders.

The Annual Report of the occupational safety and health administration in Finland 2020 publishes the activities performed in 2020. The purpose of the occupational safety and health administration is to ensure that working in Finland is as healthy and safe as possible and in compliance with working life legislation.

  • Occupational health and safety inspections: In 2020, 3 440 inspections of national phenomenon projects were carried out. A total of 11 150 sector-specific inspections were carried out.
  • Focus on the construction sector: Approximately 3 900 inspections were carried out in the construction sector, which was more than a quarter of all inspections. The prevention of cancer risks in the construction sector was also enforced in 2020.
  • OSH Administration newsletter: The aim is to share information that is as useful and as practical as possible with workplaces on the activities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the interpretation of laws and enforcement observations.
  • Discrimination and non-discrimination: The OSH authority enforces the prohibition of discrimination in the workplace in accordance with the provisions of the Non-discrimination Act as well as the employer’s obligation to promote equality.
  • Harassment and inappropriate treatment
  • The psychosocial workload factors survey platform was automated. In the future, it will be possible to use workplace inspections to show how the workplace’s own results are placed, for example, in the comparison of the sector.
  • Virtual remote inspections: Due to the coronavirus epidemic, virtual inspections were, from time to time, the only possibility for the implementation of enforcement in certain areas and workplaces. Workplaces welcomed virtual inspections.
  • Advice and guidance: The telephone service received almost 25 000 calls during 2020.
  • Online services: In 2020, around 1.43 million people used the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Tyosuojelu.fi web service.
  • Webinars for customers organised by the OSH Administration.

Resources: Due to the coronavirus epidemic, occupational safety and health inspections at workplaces decreased considerably. This freed up human resources for various development projects, staff training and planning tasks. Appropriated funding was also saved as e.g. travel costs decreased.

An overview about the OSH enforcement in 2017 to 2020 can be found in the Annual Report of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Finland 2020 on page 29[11]

Evaluation

Ex ante indicators for the years until 2030

The policy describes the strategic objectives as well as the changes to be achieved and their indicators. The indicators are monitored annually, analysed and, if necessary, the agreed measures are revised in line with the observed trend.

The goals and the corresponding indicators are mentioned on page 24 of the Implementation Plan (Tab. 1):

Table 1: Monitoring indicators
Objective Indicator Verification
Raising the average age of retirement The average age of retirement Finnish Centre for Pensions
Reducing occupational accidents The frequency of occupational accidents Workers’ Compensation Center
Reducing occupational and work-related diseases The incidence of occupational and work-related diseases Finnish Register of Occupational Diseases
Reducing harmful work-related strain Experienced physical and mental strain The quality of work life survey, Statistics Finland
Reducing long-term disability Number of people seeking a disability pension Finnish Centre for Pensions, Social Insurance Institution of Finland
Reducing short-term disability Sickness absences in relation to working hours performed Sickness absences in relation to working hours performed
Increasing participation in employment among persons with partial workability People on full and partial disability pension Finnish Centre for Pensions, Social Insurance Institution of Finland
Promoting physical workability Workability in relation to the physical demands of work Working Life Barometer
Promoting mental workability Workability in relation to the mental demands of work Working Life Barometer
Reducing emotional abuse and workplace bullying Emotional abuse or workplace bullying Working Life Barometer
Managing risks related to wellbeing and safety at work Management systems VERA
Work must be attractive The attractiveness of work Working Life Barometer (health and wellbeing indicator, Working Life 2020)

Relationship to EU Strategic Framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027

The Policy for the work environment and wellbeing at work until 2030 - Implementation plan 2022–2023 was adopted on 2.03.2022.

The implementation of the policy implementation plan takes into account the European Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2021–2027 and other international dimensions that have an impact on the policy objectives and the direction of the activities of the parties involved in the implementation of the policy.

The three key objectives as well as the actions set for their implementation mentioned in the EU Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2021–2027 are part of the Finnish implementation plan 2022–2023.

For example:

Key objective 1 of the EU Framework is covered in Focus Area 1 "Future challenges concerning occupational safety and health, and wellbeing at work". The potential risks posed by new technologies and forms of work must be identified, prevented and minimised, and their effects on health must be assessed. Mental health management of psychosocial stress in work and working conditions are mentioned in Focus Area 2. Focus Area 3 "Promoting functional capacity, workability, and employability".

Key objective 2 of the EU Framework: Vision Zero and the prevention of violence and harassment at work places explicitly mentioned in Focus Area 2 "Safe and healthy working conditions for everyone". Also the management of chemical and biological hazards.

Key objective 3 of the EU Framework: In Focus Area 3 a closer cooperation between occupational health and safety issues and public health policy in connection with pandemics and other new threats is mentioned (= prepardness).

References

  1. Työympäristön ja työhyvinvoinnin linjaukset vuoteen 2030. Available at: [1]
  2. Policy for the work environment and wellbeing at work until 2030. Available at: [2]
  3. Turvallisia ja terveellisiä työoloja sekä työkykyä kaikille Työympäristön ja työhyvinvoinnin linjaukset vuoteen 2030. Toimeenpanosuunnitelma vuosille 2022–2023. Available at: [3]
  4. Safe and healthy working conditions and work ability for everyone. Policy for the work environment and wellbeing at work until 2030. Implementation plan 2022–2023. Available at: [4]
  5. Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, A cohesive society and sustainable wellbeing, 2022. Available at: [5]
  6. Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, A cohesive society and sustainable wellbeing, 2019. Aavailable at: [6]
  7. Policies for the work environment and wellbeing at work until 2020, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, 2011. Available at: [7]
  8. Occupational health care has the capacity to respond to the health and work ability challenges caused by work and working conditions and to strengthen the resources of the employee.
  9. All employers have arranged appropriate occupational health care regardless of the size of the company
  10. Annual Report of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Finland 2020. Available at: [8]
  11. Annual Report of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Finland 2020. Available at: [9]

Contributors

Palmer, e.schmitzfelten