Frequently Asked Questions About Election of Occupational Health and Safety Representatives
At the occupational health and safety elections, the employees elect an occupational safety representative and two deputy representatives to represent them. Additional members of the occupational safety committee are also elected in larger workplaces if needed. If the election of occupational safety ombudsmen has also been agreed upon in the workplace, they will also be elected at the same time.
Preparation for the election
Organising the elections is primarily the responsibility of employees. An elections committee formed by at least three staff representatives is responsible for the practical arrangements of the election.
Before the first election is held, the occupational safety officer calls representatives of all staff groups in for negotiations where they decide or state the operating region, size of the occupational safety organisation, number of members of the occupational safety committee, how the various parties are represented and how the staff divides into different groups.
In the future the organisation of occupational safety elections and the selection of the election committee are matters decided on in the occupational safety committee. If there is no occupational safety committee, initiation of the elections is agreed upon in cooperation between the employer and the employees. It is important that the responsibilities and principles of occupational safety cooperation are discussed in the orientation of new employees at the workplace.
Members of the election committee are tasked with taking care of the practical arrangements of the elections, supervising the elections, counting the votes and making the results public. It is also recommended that election candidates relinquish their possible position on the election committee for ineligibility reasons.
In order to hold the election, the parties must first define a so-called cooperation workplace for which the candidates in the occupational safety elections will be elected.
A cooperation workplace is an entity formed by one or more locations or units of the same employer. Several cooperation workplaces can be defined for a single company. When defining a cooperation workplace, the issues to consider include the nature and extent of the operations, the number of locations or employees and the hazards and disadvantages of the work. The cooperative parties must have a genuine opportunity for mutual communication and taking care of their duties. The realisation of cooperation in occupational safety should be monitored regularly and suggestions should be made as needed to improve the way it is organised.
Genuine opportunities can mean, for example:
- the opportunity to become familiar with the working environment of the workplace and with matters relating to the status of the work community that affect the occupational health and safety of employees
- the opportunity to be trained in an occupational safety task
- adequate use of time
- the opportunity to communicate with the people you represent
- shared information management and communication channels.
When the organisation is undergoing changes related to a corporate acquisition, for example, it is important to ensure that favourable conditions for occupational safety cooperation are created and practices that serve the new organisation are put in place. Necessary changes should be agreed upon in good time before the elections are held with regard to the purpose of cooperation for occupational health and safety and the stipulations of collective labour agreements.
In these situations, it is appropriate to deal with the merging entity as its own cooperation workplace until the end of the ongoing electoral period, after which the workplace may be defined in more appropriate and fitting ways. It is important to ensure that even a unit undergoing a merger in a corporate acquisition situation is not left without an occupational safety delegate. If needed, a business function merging into another may have its own occupational safety delegate until the end of the electoral period. A by-election can be held for this purpose.
The term of the representatives is defined in calendar years with the exception of the occupational safety officer who is nominated by the employer. The term of representatives elected in the elections lasts for the next two calendar years unless a longer term is decreed for a justifiable reason in a sector-specific agreement or by local agreement in the workplace’s occupational safety committee or other equivalent cooperative body. Law allows local agreement to extend the term to up to four calendar years. The length of the term must be known before the election is held.
The length of the term must be known before candidates are nominated. The benefit of a shorter term is that public support for the elected persons is measured more frequently and it is easier for the representatives to commit to their work. The longer term allows the elected occupational safety representatives to improve their expertise further and brings the perspective of the development of cooperative practices more into view.
How personnel are divided into workers and clerical workers differs from sector to sector. Some sectors only have workers, others only have clerical workers, and some have both. A clerical worker might also mean a person in a managerial role.
A separate occupational safety cooperation agreement has been made for certain sectors which grant supervisors the right to choose their own occupational safety delegate. However, such an agreement does not exist for all sectors.
The number of personnel groups that are to receive a representative must be agreed upon in the preparatory stage of the elections while taking into account the principles defined in legislation and the possible applicable collective labour agreement.
If a company is divided into more than one occupational safety cooperation workplace, separate lists must be delivered for each workplace’s elections.
When a cooperation workplace spans more than one location, special care must be taken to ensure that everyone remains informed of the election process. Voting must be arranged in such a way that the secrecy of the polls is maintained at all times. The voting situation must not be open to review while the voting is ongoing.
Once an election date has been agreed upon, the time and place of the election must be made visible at least 14 days prior to the election date in the form of a public notice at the workplace or other such notification delivered to all entitled voters. When the election is conducted by mail or email, this means that the election committee needs access to the voters’ street addresses or email addresses. If both workers and clerical workers have declared that they will choose their own representatives, the voting should be organised to occur simultaneously. The use of insulting or demeaning signs in the elections is prohibited.
At some workplaces, holding the elections has become standard practice and employees are often aware of the obligation to choose an occupational safety delegate. However, unawareness of matters related to cooperation in occupational safety may occur especially in unorganised workplaces. In face of such unawareness, the employer must inform personnel of the election of an occupational safety delegate.
If nobody is interested in the position of occupational safety delegate at the workplace, the reasons behind this lack of interest should be discovered and addressed. Perhaps it results from ignorance of cooperative occupational safety and its requirements, from a stressful workload or from a lack of appreciation for the position. Choosing an occupational safety delegate and vice delegates is a statutory obligation for workplaces employing at least 10 persons.
This procedure would require that the staff meeting is open to the entire staff and they all have prior knowledge that the issue will be addressed at the meeting. The meeting must also be called with adherence to the 7-day notification rule. This procedure amounts to so-called “sopuvaalit”, or “agreed upon elections”.
In order to hold the election, the parties must first define a so-called cooperation workplace for which the candidates in the occupational safety elections will be elected. A cooperation workplace is an entity formed by one or more locations or units of the same employer.
When defining a cooperation workplace, the issues to consider include the nature and extent of the operations, the number of locations or employees and the hazards and disadvantages of the work. The cooperative parties must have a genuine opportunity for mutual communication and taking care of their duties. See question & answer 3.
Nominating candidates, electing an occupational safety delegate and vice delegates
Nominating candidates, electing an occupational safety delegate and vice delegates
Before nominating candidates, it is important to first define those persons who cannot stand as candidates in occupational safety elections. These include the workplace’s occupational safety officer and management group, who are primarily considered to represent the employer in occupational safety cooperation.
When nominating a candidate, the candidate’s consent to undertaking the occupational safety position should be ensured. The candidate may also give this consent orally. The election committee confirms the candidates nominated by the nomination deadline. If there are no candidates for every position as the nomination deadline comes to a close, an extension of the deadline may be agreed for those positions lacking candidates. Ultimately, if there are no candidates for a certain position, the nomination of candidates must be conducted again.
The occupational safety authorities are of the opinion that whether a worker or clerical worker in a managerial role is eligible for candidacy in occupational safety elections depends on whether they operate as a substitute or representative of the employer or not. A worker or clerical worker operating as a substitute or representative of the employer represents the employer in occupational safety cooperation. The same person cannot represent both the employer and the employee at the same time.
It must be noted that not every person in a managerial position is a representative of the employer. A person in a managerial position could be – on the basis of their experience or expertise – responsible for work tasks relating to guidance and instruction or coordination and flow of information, for example. Sector-specific agreements may include more detailed specifications on the election of occupational safety personnel.
Yes, if the workplace so agrees.
Yes. However, their position as occupational safety delegate concludes together with the employment relationship.
Yes, you do. Seasonal changes are insignificant here.
No, they cannot. The law requires that an occupational safety delegate and vice delegates are selected at workplaces of at least 10 persons.
The law states that employees have the right to choose an occupational safety delegate also in workplaces with fewer than 10 employees. It is good to come to an agreement about this issue in occupational safety cooperation.
If these persons regularly work an hour here and another there and they have a non-fixed employment contract, they are considered to belong to staff and are thus eligible to vote and stand as a candidate.
Yes, they can, but their elected role will end if the employment relationship ends.
Yes, they can.
Yes, they can.
According to legislation you must elect an occupational safety delegate and two vice delegates. (Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces 44/2006)
As a rule, separate elections are held to fill the position of occupational safety delegate and the positions of vice delegates. In small workplaces it is possible to organise a single election where the person with the most votes in elected as the occupational safety delegate and the person with the second most votes becomes the first vice delegate and the person with the third most votes becomes the second vice delegate. In such an event the candidates are running for both the position of occupational safety delegate and vice delegate. The election committee must first agree on the election procedure before candidates are nominated.
Organising the election
If it is difficult to agree on a shared date and location for the vote, mail-in voting is a possible option. With mail-in voting, the voters’ right to vote must be acknowledged and the secrecy of the polls must be maintained. A mail-in vote is realised by using two envelopes. The filled ballot is closed inside the first envelope and this envelope and a notification of the voter’s name are placed inside the second envelope. This second envelope is then delivered to the election committee either by mail or by other reliable means. The mail-in voting must conclude early enough so that the names of those who have already voted can be marked on the list of voters before the election begins at the primary voting location.
If mail-in voting is used to supplement a ballot box election, voting conducted using supplementary methods must conclude early enough so that the names of those who have already voted can be marked on the list of voters before the ballot box election begins.
Mail-in voting must also be free of election advertising. When mail-in voting is agreed upon, the costs resulting from it must also be agreed upon.
The elections may also be conducted using an electronic system. Electronic elections require that the employer grants the election committee access to the email addresses of all employees who are entitled to vote, or that the workplace has a group emailing list or other such system in place that can be used to reach all employees who are entitled to vote. Electronic voting must be conducted in such a way that the secrecy of the polls is maintained and the obligation to keep track of those who voted is fulfilled.
If electronic voting is used to supplement a ballot box election, voting conducted using supplementary methods must conclude early enough so that the names of those who have already voted can be marked on the list of voters before the ballot box election begins.
Electronic voting must also be free of election advertising. When electronic voting is agreed upon, the costs resulting from it must also be agreed upon.
If there is only one consenting candidate for each position and the order of vice delegates can be agreed upon, a so-called “agreed upon election” (or “sopuvaali”) may be held. If all those who are entitled to vote are unanimous about the election procedures and who to elect, the persons may also be elected in an election meeting.
However, if there are more candidates than there are positions, an agreed upon election is not possible. Staff must be notified of an election meeting 14 days prior to the meeting. The election committee confirms the elected persons. When the persons are chosen in an agreed upon election, a record of this must be made. This record must then be made available to the staff and a copy of it must be delivered to the employer.
If staff is unable to participate in the election meeting, the names of those elected must be made known by placing them on a noticeboard, for example. If no complaints are submitted by a deadline agreed upon beforehand, the elections are valid.
All workers and clerical workers working at the cooperation workplace on the day of the election are entitled to vote, with the exception of the occupational safety officer and the management group, who serve as the employer’s representatives in matters related to co-operation on occupational health and safety. If clerical workers choose an occupational safety delegate of their own, they are able to vote and stand as candidate only in the election of the clerical workers’ occupational safety delegate. Equally, workers are only entitled to participate in the selection of their own delegate. If clerical workers do not choose a delegate of their own, they vote in the regular occupational safety elections.
They cannot vote at the workplace where they are working on an agency contract. They can vote in the occupational safety elections of their own employer (the staffing agency).
No, they cannot.
Voting with a letter of attorney is not possible.
The person is selected by the drawing of lots.
Secrecy of the polls means that nobody has access to information about who voted for which candidate. The voting location must maintain books of who has voted and ensure that nobody is able to vote more than once.
You may also vote for people who are not on the ballot in the election.. Nobody can be elected as an occupational safety delegate, vice delegate or member of the occupational safety committee against their will. If the elected person refuses the position, the position goes to the person with the second most votes in the election.
After the election
The candidate who receives the most votes in the occupational safety delegate election becomes the occupational safety delegates. The two persons who receive the most votes in the vice delegate election become vice delegates. The election committee may also agree that the candidate with the most votes becomes the actual occupational safety delegate, the candidate with the second most votes becomes the first vice delegate and the candidate with the third most votes becomes the second vice delegate.
If a person in fixed-term employment is elected as the occupational safety delegate, their role as delegate concludes with the employment relationship.
If the employment relationship of the occupational safety delegate concludes or if they resign from the position of occupational safety delegate before their term is over, they will be succeeded by a vice delegate for the remainder of the term. If the position of occupational safety delegate cannot be filled by vice delegates elected for that term, a by-election must be held. If the only vice delegate at the workplace becomes the occupational safety delegate, a by-election of a new vice delegate should be organised according to the same rules.
A by-election may also be justified in situations where personnel changes result in a shortage of representatives in the occupational safety committee. If the current term is nearing its end, instead of holding a by-election the date of the actual election can be brought forward.
A person authorised by the employer, usually the occupational safety officer. This notification must be made after each election even if the same persons continue in their duties.
Role of the occupational safety officer
No. Occupational safety elections concern the selection of staff representatives – an occupational safety delegate and vice delegates. Sometimes the elections also involve choosing the labour protection ombudsman or additional members for the occupational safety committee. The occupational safety officer is nominated by the employer.
The employer assigns the occupational safety officer until further notice. The length of the officer’s term has not been defined.
Yes. See answer 3.