SAK proposes stricter penalties for occupational safety
Helsinki (30.07.2007 - Juhani Artto) SAK, the largest union
confederation in Finland, recently proposed lengthening the maximum penalties for
occupational safety crimes. They should be comparable with penalties which are in force
for environmental and economic crimes, SAK maintains.
"The one year maximum imprisonment should be significantly lengthened", insists
the SAK in its March 2007 document, approved by the board of the organisation.
"As the central goal of occupational safety legislation is protection of
life, health and ability to work, its neglect must have consequences that
are related to the seriousness of these cases."
SAK also wants to give occupational safety authorities the right to impose an immediate
fine for clear-cut safety shortcomings.
The supervision of new machines, tools and materials should be more
effective, according to SAK. Since the mid 1990s this important area of
occupational safety has been weakened as a result of a significant reduction in public
resources for this purpose.
The Employers' Confederation of Finnish Industries EK reacted robustly
to SAK's proposals claiming that they are not viable.
Also the second largest union confederation STTK responded negatively to proposals to make
penalties stricter for occupational safety crimes.
Instead, increasing companies' economic responsibility should be
considered, counters the STTK.
Safety reps for small work places needed
Throughout working life in Finland tens of thousands of people have
responsibilities with regard to occupational safety work. There are
occupational safety personnel employed by companies and then safety reps elected by
workers and salaried employees.
At present, by law, safety representatives must be elected at all work
places that have at least 10 employees. SAK proposes that the limit be lowered to 5
At the end of 2005 the Register of Occupational Safety Personnel, maintained by the Centre
for Occupational Safety, contained data on over 60,000 persons who had occupational safety
tasks in working life. The data originated from 11,500 companies. About 5,000 companies
had neglected their statutory obligation to give this information to the Register. SAK
demands that the Register's data must be updated and complete.
However, a more worrying matter may be that less than a third of the
occupational safety persons have been trained in occupational safety. SAK proposes new
legislation that would define the minimum competence standards for people who, in the
employer organisations, have responsibilities for occupational safety.