Over half (57%) of the occupational safety officers and a little under half (39%) of the occupational safety representatives estimate that their workplace had managed the COVID-19 situation very well. Nearly all occupational safety and health personnel (98%) estimated that managing the situation had succeeded at least fairly well.

However, the open-ended answers of the occupational safety and health panel provide some indications of the considerable differences in the role of occupational safety and health in different workplaces. At some workplaces occupational safety and health has played a central role. The expertise of occupational safety and health staff has been extensively utilized, for example, in drawing up and implementing guidelines, work arrangements, communication, guidance and risk assessments. However, in other workplaces the role of occupational safety and health has remained very small. Especially occupational safety representatives have felt sidelined in relation to planning and implementing measures of managing the COVID-19 situation. (Cf. Figure ‘Issues that have required the expertise of occupational safety and health’)

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Issues that have required the expertise of occupational safety and health

Which issues have required your expertise regarding occupational safety and health?

261 answers
0102030405060 Drawing up guidelines and applying them to your own workplace Drawing up guidelines and applying them to your own workplace: 61 mentions For (almost) nothing at all For (almost) nothing at all: 56 mentions Work arrangements, such as safety distances, securing production Work arrangements, such as safety distances, securing production: 53 mentions Informing employees, guidance and instruction Informing employees, guidance and instruction: 49 mentions Procuring protective equipment and instructing people in their use Procuring protective equipment and instructing people in their use: 47 mentions Risk assessment Risk assessment: 28 mentions Enabling staff well-being Enabling staff well-being: 20 mentionsNumber of mentions

Excerpts from the answers:


  • Drawing up guidelines and interpreting them on a case-by-case basis.
  • Nothing has been requested of me. I have only received guidelines from the management.
  • Calming down the employees, highlighting the importance of complying with the instructions and helping in contacting the party, in case they have any worries.
  • In various purchases, such as surgical masks and hand sanitizer dispensers.
  • In the risk assessment conducted in relation to the COVID-19 situation.
  • Assessing risks related to individual situations.
  • Ideas and perspectives related to enabling coping at work have been requested from occupational safety and health.
  • ...

Attitudes and behaviour are the greatest challenges

In the open-ended answers of the occupational safety and health panel, people’s attitudes and behaviour were highlighted as the greatest challenges to managing the COVID-19 situation. Both clients and employees have, at times, behaved recklessly, ignoring guidelines and failing, for example, to observer safety distances. Managing exposure in work that requires in-person presence, such as customer service, felt very challenging. Other mentioned challenges include constantly changing, unclear or poor instructions as well as too many instructions. (Cf. Figure ‘Greatest challenges in managing the COVID-19 situation’).

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Greatest challenges in managing the covid-19 situation

What have been the greatest challenges in managing the covid-19 situation at your workplace?

372 answers
0102030405060 People’s (employees, clients etc.) behaviour and attitudes People’s (employees, clients etc.) behaviour and attitudes: 65 mentions Exposure management in work that requires in-person presence Exposure management in work that requires in-person presence: 47 mentions Safety distances Safety distances: 38 mentions Unclear instructions/too many instructions Unclear instructions/too many instructions: 36 mentions Staff stress and coping Staff stress and coping: 31 mentions Planning and organization of activities Planning and organization of activities: 29 mentionsNumber of mentions

Excerpts from the answers:


  • Reckless behaviour by clients. Some people won’t stay behind the plexiglass.
  • Working remotely is not possible to even nearly everyone, break rooms are very cramped.
  • Maintaining physical distance, especially in demanding physical labour that requires co-operating.
  • Very unclear guidelines from the authorities and constantly informing people about them. There are many guidelines and keeping them all updated has required a lot of effort.
  • Constant changes to the guidelines and contradictions in them.
  • Staff getting tired of being constantly on guard.
  • Enabling moving to remote work and recreating teamwork and meeting practices.
  • Staggering breaks.
  • ...

Communicate, care and remain vigilant

The open-ended answers of the occupational safety and health panel were aimed at finding out what occupational safety and health personnel have learned from the exceptional situation caused by COVID-19. Clear and transparent communication along with the importance of shared discussions, listening and interaction were highlighted the most. Occupational safety and health must be reachable and provide support. Managing up-to-date and correct information also received very many mentions. One must remain vigilant, actively monitor the rapidly changing situation and act accordingly.  In addition, many respondents also highlighted the importance of co-operation under exceptional circumstances. Cf. Figure ‘Key lessons learned of role and tasks of occupational safety and health in exceptional situation’)

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Key lessons learned of role and tasks of occupational safety and health in exceptional situation

What are the key lessons you have learned about the tasks/role of occupational safety and health during this exceptional situation?

338 answers
020406080 Clear, transparent dissemination of instructions Clear, transparent dissemination of instructions: 87 mentions Implementation, rapid response and follow-up Implementation, rapid response and follow-up: 56 mentions Shared discussions, listening and supporting Shared discussions, listening and supporting: 51 mentions Managing up-to-date and correct information Managing up-to-date and correct information: 45 mentions Occupational safety and health sidelined/role unclear Occupational safety and health sidelined/role unclear: 40 mentions Importance of co-operation Importance of co-operation: 39 mentions Focus on protecting employees Focus on protecting employees: 37 mentions Importance of staying calm and accepting changes Importance of staying calm and accepting changes: 34 mentions Importance of being proactive and planning Importance of being proactive and planning: 22 mentions Remembering to look after the well-being of employees Remembering to look after the well-being of employees: 21 mentions Occupational safety and health has an important role in a crisis Occupational safety and health has an important role in a crisis: 17 mentions Importance of being available and setting example to others Importance of being available and setting example to others: 16 mentionsThe job requires perseverance: repetitions, reminders, revisionThe job requires perseverance: repetitions, reminders, revision: 15 mentions Requires being active Requires being active: 11 mentionsNumber of mentions

Excerpts from the answers:


  • The importance of communication cannot be emphasized too much.
  • Clear and understandable instructions in real time!
  • You must discuss issues together as soon as possible so that everyone knows what they should do.
  • You must constantly have the appropriate and updated information available to you. You must be active in gathering and updating information.
  • Together, we can usually come up with solutions. You should involve all staff groups and listen to them.
  • Protecting employees as well as possible with the existing resources is a priority.
  • You must remain calm and be an expert even in difficult situations (and not make your own guesses). Calm people down and instil the faith that, together, we can handle this too.
  • ...

Co-operation with occupational health care focussed on suspected infections

According to the occupational safety and health panel, the support provided by occupational health care was mainly used in relation to suspected infections. Workplaces co-ordinated with occupational health care on how to implement testing and any possible quarantines. Occupational health care was also used for disseminating information and guidelines related to protection, risk assessments and coping at work. As a contrast to this close occupational health co-operation, many respondents reported not having been in touch with occupational health care at all in managing the situation. (Cf. Figure ‘Co-operation with occupational health care’)

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Co-operation with occupational health care

In which aspects of managing the covid-19 situation have you co-operated with occupational health care?

283 answers
020406080100 Testing practices, what to do in case of a suspected illness Testing practices, what to do in case of a suspected illness: 119 mentions Nothing Nothing: 60 mentions Disseminating instructions and information to employees and supervisors Disseminating instructions and information to employees and supervisors: 48 mentions Risk assessment, planning the required measures Risk assessment, planning the required measures: 24 mentions Instructions regarding hand hygiene and protection Instructions regarding hand hygiene and protection: 16 mentions Enabling staff coping at work Enabling staff coping at work: 16 mentionsNumber of mentions

Excerpts from the answers:


  • We included COVID-19 testing in our occupational health care contract. Occupational health care has only provided general instructions about getting tested.
  • We have not co-operated with occupational health care in managing the COVID-19 situation.
  • For example, drawing up a checklist of things to remember in working with clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • I have received guidelines to distribute. Webinars for our staff.
  • Occupational health care has provided briefings and recommendations.
  • Reducing exposure and assessing the need and impact of different measures.
  • A lecture about coping at work in the spring, and deploying online mental health services.
  • ...

Both national and local information utilized at workplaces

In the open-ended answers of the panel, various guidelines by the authorities, such as those by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the Government and various ministries were highlighted as key sources of information related to COVID-19. Other mentioned sources include hospital districts, health care, municipalities, occupational health care, insurance companies, the respondents’ own organizations, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Centre for Occupational Safety, employer organizations and trade unions as well as the Regional State Administrative Agency.

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Key covid-19 information sources

What information have you used at your workplace related to covid-19 and managing it?

300 answers
020406080100120 Recommendation of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare Recommendation of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare: 123 mentions Authorities’ guidelines Authorities’ guidelines: 56 mentions Government and ministries Government and ministries: 52 mentions Hospital district, health care or municipality, regional guidelines Hospital district, health care or municipality, regional guidelines: 45 mentions Expert or supervisors of the organization Expert or supervisors of the organization: 39 mentions Occupational health care or insurance company Occupational health care or insurance company: 39 mentions The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Centre for Occupational Safety The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Centre for Occupational Safety: 34 mentions Employer organizations or trade unions Employer organizations or trade unions: 21 mentions Regional State Administrative Agency Regional State Administrative Agency: 20 mentionsNumber of mentions

Intranet and e-mail are key workplace communication channels

The constantly changing COVID-19 situation posed challenges to disseminating and managing information at workplaces. What good methods have been used to relate this constantly changing information? In the panel’s open-ended answers the most often mentioned channels were e-mail, workplace intranet, announcements, briefings and instructions. Many workplaces also employed more concise meetings, follow-ups and constant monitoring of the situation as well as interactive channels such as Teams. Other highlights included info TVs, traditional notice boards, WhatsApp groups, text messages and the role of a preparedness/COVID-19 group in disseminating information. (Cf. ‘Workplace methods for relating constantly updating COVID-19 information’)

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Workplace methods for relating constantly updating covid-19 information

The covid-19 situation is constantly changing. What good ways has your workplace used to relate this constantly changing information?

411 answers
020406080100120 E-mail E-mail: 130 mentions Intranet Intranet: 115 mentions Briefings, announcements, events, guidelines Briefings, announcements, events, guidelines: 104 mentions Concise meetings and follow-ups Concise meetings and follow-ups: 70 mentions Active monitoring of the situation Active monitoring of the situation: 64 mentions Interactive communication channels Interactive communication channels: 54 mentions Info TV, notice board, info folder Info TV, notice board, info folder: 49 mentions WhatsApp, SMS etc. WhatsApp, SMS etc.: 45 mentions Supervisors relating information, training supervisors Supervisors relating information, training supervisors: 36 mentions Preparedness/COVID-19 group Preparedness/COVID-19 group: 30 mentionsNumber of mentions

Excerpts from the answers:


  • The HR manager sends the required changes to guidelines by e-mail to staff and posts them also in our intranet.
  • Webinars designed for all employees, where management, experts, security and occupational health care discuss the COVID-19 situation.
  • Group-wide weekly COVID-19 updates that handle the matter from the perspective of the entire company..
  • The occupational safety and health group monitors news and reacts accordingly.
  • Non-stop information on internal TVs. 
  • We have sent text messages to everyone, where necessary.
  • Supervisors are provided up-to-date information and they inform the employees..
  • Our COVID-19 group convenes once per week.
  • ...

The occupational safety and health panel is a survey that is targeted at the occupational safety and health personnel and focuses on current topics related to work life. In 2020, the theme was occupational safety and health activities during the COVID-19 pandemic (n=572).