When is the occupational safety representative elected?
An occupational safety representative is elected in workplaces with at least ten permanent employees. Workplaces with fewer employees can also elect a representative if necessary. Two deputy representatives are also elected.
The occupational safety representative serves for a term of two calendar years, unless a longer term is agreed upon in the unions’ sectoral agreement or locally in occupational health and safety cooperation. The term may be no longer than four calendar years.
The employer is required to provide information to employees about their right to choose an occupational safety representative when necessary.
Labour market organizations have prepared instructions for electing an occupational safety representative.
Duties of the occupational safety representative
It is the occupational safety representative’s duty to look, on their own initiative, into the work environment in the workplace and into issues that affect the safety and health of the employees in the work community. The representative must also look into work safety regulations.
The occupational safety representative should encourage the employees they represent to pay attention to occupational safety and health and to make proposals to improve safety.
One of the important tasks of the occupational safety representative is to convey employee-level information about occupational safety and health issues to the employer, so that they can be handled in cooperation. The representative is an ex officio member of the occupational safety committee, when the workplace has one.
As a representative, the occupational safety representative is not legally responsible for occupational health and safety.
Rights of the occupational safety representative
The occupational safety representative also has some rights that help them in the performance of their duties. The occupational safety representative is entitled to information concerning the safety and health of the workplace’s work environment and work community, e.g. the workplace risk assessment documents, the occupational health care agreement and the occupational health care action plan.
The occupational safety representative has the right to participate in health and safety inspections of the workplace and in other expert inspections, if deemed necessary by the inspector or expert.
The occupational safety representative is entitled to compensation for loss of income incurred as a result of performing their duties as the representative. The compensation is calculated according to the salary the representative would have earned in their regular work.
The occupational safety representative is an employee representative and, as such, has increased protection against job termination.
The occupational safety representative has the right to interrupt work that poses an immediate and serious risk to an employee’s life or health. The representative must notify the employer or their representative of the interruption immediately.
Occupational safety representative’s right to training
The employer is required by the Work Safety Supervision Act to provide the occupational safety representative and their deputies with the opportunity for appropriate training in matters concerning work safety regulations and guidelines as well as in other matters relating to occupational health and safety cooperation. The training must not result in any costs or loss of income for the representative.
Time allocated for the occupational safety representative’s duties
The time allocated for the performance of the occupational safety representative’s duties reflects the number of employees they represent, the regional extent of the workplace, and the nature of the work.
At a workplace with more than ten permanent employees, the legally required minimum time allocation for the representative’s duties is four hours over a period of four consecutive calendar weeks. Labour market organizations have also agreed on the time allocation of the representatives in their own sectoral agreements.
Deputy of the occupational safety representative
When the occupational safety representative is prevented from performing their duties, a deputy takes them on. The representative may be prevented from performing their duties temporarily or permanently.
If the obstruction is permanent, the deputy takes over as the representative for the remainder of the term. If, for instance, the employment contract of the representative is terminated or they resign during their term, the obstruction is permanent. When a deputy takes over the duties of an occupational safety representative, the deputy also receives the authority of the representative.
When a representative is temporarily prevented from performing their duties, the deputy performs only tasks too urgent to be postponed until the representative returns. Participation in the safety inspection or investigating an accident are examples of urgent tasks. While a deputy is performing the duties of the representative, the deputy is entitled to the information and time allocation related to these duties.