The Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center has been operating for a century

The Finnish Federation of Accident Insurance Institutions was founded on Saturday, 27 March 1920 in Helsinki. The name was later changed to the Federation of Accident Insurance Institutions and, in early 2016, to the Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center (TVK). The 100-year-old TVK wants to continue to develop itself and the Finnish occupational accident and disease insurance activities in the coming decades.

Private insurance institutions’ need for supervision of interests as well as their desire to impact future legislation and organise accident insurance and the medical care of the injured in the best possible manner were some of the reasons why the people of that time decided to establish the federation. They all shared the objective of promoting the prevention of accidents and harmonising compensation policies.

In Finland, statutory occupational accident insurance activities were, and still are, carried out by private insurance companies. TVK’s main task and the basis of its existence today is to support the work and uniform policies of insurance companies and coordinate the implementation of occupational accident and disease insurance.

“We celebrated our 100th anniversary by working remotely in separate locations. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we had to postpone the celebratory seminar we had planned for the occasion. We will certainly celebrate our centenary later, once the coronavirus has been defeated,” says CEO Janne Reini from the Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center.

When the federation was founded, there were 12 domestic and one foreign insurance company providing occupational accident insurance in Finland. Today, members of the Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center include 11 accident insurance institutions providing occupational accident insurance, the State Treasury and Mela. TVK’s administration also includes key labour market central organisations with which TVK works closely to develop insurance activities.

“Our members and labour market organisations have been and will continue to be our most important partners as we work in accordance with our strategy to reduce risks in Finnish working life and develop an insurance system for occupational accidents and diseases,” says Reini, noting TVK’s future plans.

An investment in the development of occupational safety

TVK’s own occupational safety department was established in 1974 as it hired an occupational safety manager and an occupational safety engineer. TVK had set up a system for investigating occupational accidents of a catastrophic nature during the connection of the TVK office a few years earlier, in 1971.

The system for investigating occupational accidents of a catastrophic nature was abolished in 1985 when TVK and the labour market parties concluded an agreement on the investigation of workplace accidents. The investigation of workplace accidents that TVK leads has contributed to a significant reduction in the number of fatal workplace accidents in Finland over the years.

In addition to accident investigation, TVK began collecting statistics on the level of individual damage and insurance in the early 1970s. Statistics have played an important role in monitoring the insurance stock and the development of damages and compensation. The reliable statistics have been used, for example, to direct labour protection activities.

“By compiling statistics on occupational accidents and diseases and investigating the risks associated with occupational accidents and diseases, we contribute to the safety of Finnish work,” Reini describes.

The statutory status of the Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center

The Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center acquired a statutory status for the first time in 1988 when its tasks were defined in the Employment Accidents Insurance Act.

The next significant change in TVK’s activities took place in 1997 when TVK was given the role of a united centre for occupational accidents, as referred to in the requirements of the EU Commission, and the activities turned more in the direction of a statutory central body and coordinator of the implementation of laws. Compensation for damage in uninsured work was transferred from the State Treasury to TVK, as was the management of cases related to places of stay and residence which were previously the responsibility of Pohjola Insurance. In order to carry out the new tasks, TVK set up a compensation department.

The Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center was involved in founding the European Forum of the Insurance against Accidents at Work and Occupational Diseases in 1992. The Workers’ Compensation Center became a member of the International Social Security Association (ISS) in 1957.

“It has always been beneficial to exchange ideas and experiences with international colleagues regarding what works in occupational accident and disease insurance activities and what kind of solution models various countries have created for the same issues. I hope that we will soon be able to see each other again to discuss these themes and continue to make working life a little safer,” says Reini.

Occupational accident insurance turns 125

Statutory occupational accident insurance is the oldest social insurance in Finland. Finland enacted its first occupational accident insurance 125 years ago in 1895. Finland was the fourth country in the world to provide compensation for workers’ accidents.

The currently valid Workers’ Compensation Act entered into force at the beginning of 2016. The law was under preparation for a long time, approximately 10 years. The Act merged three previous laws, i.e., the Employment Accidents Insurance Act from 1948, the Occupational Diseases Act from 1988 and the Act on Rehabilitation Compensation Paid under the Employment Accidents Insurance Act from 1991. In connection with the legal reform, the Federation of Accident Insurance Institutions changed its name to the current Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center.

The aim of the law reform was to not only update the law in terms of existing legal and compensation practices, but also to clarify the legislation on accident insurance that had become a patchwork of policies over the years. Increased clarity and transparency reduced ambiguity as well. At the same time, the compensation process became more efficient and quicker.

The current statutory occupational accident and disease insurance applies to all workers with an employment relationship. Entrepreneurs can insure themselves voluntarily. The compensation criteria are defined in the Workers’ Compensation Act, but they are rather poorly known.

“Fortunately, insurance coverage becomes concrete less frequently these days as occupational safety improves. The number of occupational diseases that, under the law, must be reimbursed has also decreased every year. We have worked hard and will continue to do so to ensure that citizens are more aware of the primary features of the protection provided by occupational accident and disease insurance,” Reini says.

The payment of compensation for the consequences of serious occupational accidents can take decades. The oldest occupational accidents that are still being compensated for occurred in the late 1930s. Compensation for serious occupational accidents is consolidated, which has guaranteed that the Finnish system for the implementation of occupational accident and disease insurance is financially sound and able to cover liabilities that last decades.