Since the 1920s, Finnish insurance companies have been instrumental in preventing occupational accidents and diseases.
Provisions on occupational safety are laid down in the 2002 Work Safety Act which, more than any earlier acts, stresses the employees’ general responsibilities. Instead of being passive subjects of protection, employees have become active contributors to the matters of labour protection. Meanwhile, as a result of the requirements implied by Finland’s EU membership, the responsibility of the employers for the conditions and risks present at the workplace and at work has been given even more emphasis.
Not all conditions in which occupational accidents occur are covered by the employer’s statutory labour protection obligation. For example, work travel is usually excluded from the coverage. However, as employers are increasingly adopting comprehensive management of life and health risk, they are also seeing to their employees’ safety during work travel.
In addition to the actual cost of occupational accidents, employers and society as a whole must consider the indirect costs. These may arise from employee training, interruption of work and other disruption caused by accidents and have been estimated to cost many times the actual insurance premiums.
Efforts to improve occupational safety as part of workers’ compensation
Insurance companies play a major role in working with their clients to improve safety. The services they provide include statistics, risk assessment and mapping, and programmes, training, publications and materials related to occupational safety.
The Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center (TVK) is the non-life insurance companies’ central organisation for the efforts to improve safety at work. TVK maintains the official register of occupational accidents and diseases. Its mandate includes compiling statistics and carrying out studies on the occupational accidents and diseases reported to the insurance companies. In practice, TVK regularly produces up-to-date statistics and analyses of the current state of occupational safety and accidents.
TVK leads the investigation of fatal occupational accidents. These TOT investigations have been part of TVK’s remit since 1985. TVK currently investigates 10–20 serious occupational accidents each year.
When a decision is made on whether an individual case should be investigated, TVK considers, in particular, whether the investigation can provide important and useful information on how to prevent similar accidents and risk situations and how to promote general safety at work. Investigation particularly focuses on cases that represent new risks or emerging industries, cases that could have led to a major accident and cases not investigated at all or investigated to an insufficient extent by other stakeholders.
Effect on the amount of insurance premiums
The system of paying for the workers’ compensation insurance supports the efforts to improve safety at work. The employer’s insurance premiums are reduced when the cost of occupational accidents decreases as a result of safety measures. This particularly applies to medium and large enterprises where the insurance premium partly depends on the company’s compensation expenses. Successful re-entry to work after an occupational accident or disease also affects the premium.