Occupational safety and health representative

The occupational safety and health representative represents all of the workplace’s employees in OHS issues.

The occupational safety and health representative represents all employees – not just JHL members – in matters related to safety and health. The representative (and two vice representatives) must be elected at workplaces that have at least ten employees, but even at smaller workplaces employees can elect an occupational safety and health representative from among themselves if they wish.

Everyone is entitled to stand for office in occupational safety and health representative elections and to participate in the election of their workplace’s occupational safety and health representative. The representative’s term of office is, depending on the sector, from two to four years.

The occupational safety and health representative receives continuous OHS training offered by JHL. He or she has the opportunity to be actively involved in OHS co-operation with various parties.

The occupational safety and health representative has the same stronger protection against dismissal as shop stewards as prescribed in the Employment Contracts Act or sector-specific agreements.

Occupational safety and health representatives are needed for

  • representing employees in OHS issues such as handling employee initiatives or problem situations and for OHS inspections
  • working together with occupational safety managers, occupational health care services and other OHS parties
  • looking into workplace conditions and the work community’s situation using workplace visits, statistics and reports
  • familiarising themselves with OHS regulations
  • getting employees to focus on safe ways of working
  • participating in influencing matters and changes directly impacting employees’ safety and health
  • participating in the planning and implementation of risk assessments
  • participating in the creation of the workplace’s shared principles and rules
  • participating in developing the workplace’s OHS matters
  • monitoring the implementation of agreed measures
  • keeping OHS matters relevant by making proposals, being active and proactive
  • interrupting dangerous work
  • co-operating with other OHS parties and personnel representatives

Vice occupational safety and health representative

The vice occupational safety and health representative manages the representative’s tasks when the representative is prevented from doing so. The occupational safety and health representative must inform the employer if he or she is unable to perform his or her duties and that the duties will be transferred to the vice occupational safety and health representative.

The inability to perform the duties can be short-term – for example due to participation in a meeting or an inspection – or long-term, in which case the vice representative is granted the representative’s powers such as the right to obtain information, the right to use working time and the right to interrupt work.

Workplace-specific practices, such as standing in for the occupational safety and health representative’s annual holiday and longer sick leave periods, should be agreed on at the workplace ahead of time.

The right to receive information and training

The occupational safety and health representative is entitled to obtain from the employer the necessary information to carry out the co-operation duties. The right to obtain information includes the right to

  • gain access to documents and lists concerning OHS, which are maintained by the employer and which the employer has in his or her possession
  • gain access to the agreement on arranging occupational health care or a description of the occupational health care arranged and the occupational health care action plan
  • receive copies of these documents if it is necessary for carrying out the duties

The employer must ensure that the occupational safety and health representative and vice representative have the opportunity to receive training required by their position. The need for training and arranging training must be discussed within two months of the election of the occupational safety and health representative.

Training shall take place during working hours, unless otherwise agreed in the collective agreement, for example. The training must not result in costs or loss of income for the occupational safety and health representative and vice representative.

Occupational safety and health representative’s time use

The employer must release the occupational safety and health representative from his or her regular duties for a reasonable period of time that the representative requires for managing the duties of occupational safety and health representative. Excusing the representative from the duties can only be prevented temporarily and for a justifiable reason.

The employer must provide to the occupational safety and health representative a real opportunity to manage his or her duties as an occupational safety and health representative. The Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces contains a detailed list of matters that shall be taken into account when determining the time required for the management of the representative’s duties.

The de minimis clause requires that if at least ten employees work regularly at the workplace, the occupational safety and health representative representing the group of employees facing the greatest harm or hazard shall be released from his or her regular work for taking care of representative’s duties for at least four hours during each period of four successive calendar weeks.

Compensation for loss of income

The employer shall compensate occupational safety and health representatives for any loss of income incurred due to taking care of representative’s duties during working hours and pay compensation for an occupational safety and health representative’s necessary duties carried out outside working hours.

The employer shall provide the occupational safety and health representative with facilities that are necessary for carrying out his or her duties. The occupational safety and health representative is entitled to use the workplace’s office and communications equipment for managing his or her representative duties.

More on the topic:

Occupational safety representative, election of representative – The Centre for Occupational Safety
Occupational safety committee – The Centre for Occupational Safety
Occupational safety ombudsman – The Centre for Occupational Safety
Occupational safety manager – The Centre for Occupational Safety
Occupational safety personnel register – The Centre for Occupational Safety