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Home » At the workplace » Occupational safety and health representative » Choosing occupational health and safety representatives

Choosing occupational health and safety representatives

Workplaces with ten or more workers must have occupational health and safety representatives by law. Smaller workplaces can also have occupational health and safety representatives.  

Occupational health and safety representatives (työsuojeluvaltuutettu) represent all workers, including non-union workers, in a particular workplace in matters concerning health and safety.  

Their term may be two years or four years, the latter requiring a local agreement. The health and safety representatives are elected. In service sector workplaces, workers organise their occupational health and safety representative elections every odd year in November or December.  

If the elected representative resigns or their employment ends in the middle of their term, they are replaced by the substitute representative (varavaltuutettu) who had the most votes. If representative positions remain unfilled, a by-election must be held. 

Who can be elected? 

The employer and workers must negotiate the structure of the occupational health and safety organisation prior to the first election and whenever changes are planned. They must also agree upon how the elections are organised and budgeted.  

Aside from regular representatives and their substitutes, regional and principal occupational health and safety representatives or ombudsmen (alueellinen työsuojeluvaltuutettu, päätyösuojeluvaltuutettu, and työsuojeluasiamies respectively) may be chosen, according to the size and organisation of the company and the sector’s occupational health and safety cooperation agreement. Note that the same representative may not represent multiple sectors or industries – the representative for commerce may not represent cleaners, for example. 

An ombudsman may be chosen to represent a particular workplace, section of a workplace, or occupational group. The use and number of ombudsmen is negotiated locally. In most of the industries where PAM operates, the job security of health and safety ombudsmen is weaker than that of representatives. 

We recommend that service sector workplaces elect PAM members as their occupational health and safety representatives. PAM members are eligible for the occupational health and safety training provided by PAM, and they may actively participate in occupational health and safety cooperation with different service sector operators.  

(listaus työehtosopimuksista)

Election committee 

The members of the occupational health and safety committee may form the election committee, for example. If there is currently an occupational health and safety representative, they are in a good position to assemble the election committee. Would-be candidates are allowed to prepare the elections but may not act as election officials or count votes. 

The election committee organises the election in practice: 

  • announces the nomination of candidates and the time of the selection meeting  
  • organises the voting if multiple candidates are available   
  • counts the votes 
  • reports the winning candidates to the workers, employers, and PAM. 

Nomination of candidates 

The election starts with the nomination of candidates no later than 14 days before the polling day. 

The final candidates must be announced to the election committee no later than seven days before the polling day. Eligible candidates include all blue- and white-collar workers who are in an employment relationship with the employer. Some industries’ occupational health and safety cooperation agreements allow white-collar workers to choose their own representative.  

Supervisors are not eligible to represent blue- or white-collar workers, but they can choose their own representative by local agreement. If the supervisors elect not to choose their own representative, they can vote in the elections for the workers’ representatives. 

Candidates must specify if they would serve as the regular or a substitute occupational health and safety representative, ombudsman, or a member of the occupational health and safety committee. After the candidates have been nominated, the election committee must confirm the willingness of all candidates for their chosen position in writing.  

The list of candidates must be announced to the voters in good time before the polling day. For example, the list of candidates may be posted on noticeboards at the workplace, emailed to the workers, or published on the company’s intranet. 

The committee requests a list of all blue- and white-collar workers employed by the company and the supervisors authorised to act as the employer’s deputies. This list is called the electoral roll (vaaliluettelo). 

Elections and voting 

If only one candidate is confirmed for each position available by the deadline, no election needs to be held. The election committee simply approves the candidates. 

PAM has prepared materials for occupational health and safety representative elections.

Votes are either cast with a single ballot paper that lists multiple positions or separate ballot papers, one for each position. The ballot papers must be clear and simple to avoid confusion.  

The ballot papers must be placed in a sealed, locked, or otherwise secure ballot box at the polling station. The first voter must verify that the ballot box is empty before the voting starts. The ballot papers must be stamped before they are placed in the box. 

The final list of candidates approved by the election committee must be posted at the polling station. No advertisements for candidates are allowed in or around the polling station. 

Ballot secrecy must be absolute. The names of those who have voted must be registered in the electoral roll. The election must continue until all shifts have been given an opportunity to vote. 

If a common time and place prove too difficult to organise, a postal ballot may be used as well. Care must be taken to verify the right to vote and safeguard ballot secrecy in a postal vote.  

The ballot letter includes the following: 

  • list of candidates 
  • ballot paper or papers 
  • voter identification form  
  • a small and a large envelope. 

The voter seals the completed ballot papers in the small envelope. They then seal the small envelope and voter identification form in the large envelope. The large envelope must be mailed or delivered in some other reliable way to the election committee.  

If a postal ballot is organised in addition to a polling station, the postal ballot must end and its voters must be registered in the electoral roll before the polling station may be opened for voting. 

An electronic system is also an option. For electronic voting, the employer must provide the election committee with the email addresses of all eligible voters (workers) or a mailing list that will reach all eligible voters.  

Like other types of voting, electronic voting must uphold absolute ballot secrecy and register the names of those who have voted.  

Election results 

The election committee must submit a report of the selection of occupational health and safety representatives to the employer. The employer reports the names of the selected representatives to the Register of Occupational Safety Personnel maintained by the Centre for Occupational Safety. 

Election results must be reported to PAM. Reporting the results to PAM is important because we organise training, events, and industry-specific materials regarding working environments for regular and substitute occupational health and safety representatives. 

HUOM! Mikäli ilmoitat ainoastaan varavaltuutetun tehtävästä, valitse Tehtävän tiedot -kohdasta ”Joku muu”. Kirjoita avautuvaan kenttään sen tehtävän nimi, josta olet ilmoitusta tekemässä, esim. 1 varavaltuutettu. Täytä varavaltuutetun tiedot suoraan Työsuojeluvaltuutettua koskevat tiedot -kohtaan

Voit myös halutessasi tulostaa ilmoituksen työsuojeluvalinnoista ja toimittaa sen täytettynä PAMiin.

Election materials (in Finnish)

Download the pdf-files if you want to fill in the forms on your computer. Then fill in the missing information and save the file with a new name.

Guides for organising election of occupational safety representative

Printed versions can be ordered from PAM’s webshop.

Read also

Last updated: 17.08.2023

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