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Working environment and safety at work

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) shall be applied in full to all posted workers and also to all posted workers originating from third countries. The Estonian Occupational Health and Safety Act also applies to a posted worker if its provisions are less favourable to them than the provisions of the law of the corresponding foreign country

Compliance with occupational health and safety requirements in force in Estonia is ensured by the contracting authority or the person with whom the posted worker performs work duties in Estonia. This means that the company receiving posted workers in Estonia must take into account that it also has obligations regarding the occupational health and safety of these employees and is subject to the provisions of OHSA regarding liability for violation of occupational health and safety requirements. Arising from the Working Conditions of Employees Posted to Estonia Act, the posted worker’s actual employer and the contracting authority or the person with whom the posted worker is performing their duties has the opportunity to agree upon who is responsible for complying with the requirements of the OHSA or in which cases or in what part. It should be noted here that if no agreement has been concluded, the contracting authority or the person with whom the posted worker is working in Estonia is responsible for compliance with the requirements of OHSA. You should definitely be aware that posted workers must be guaranteed the same conditions as the employees that are already employed with the company.

Occupational health and safety of temporary agency workers

Pursuant to OHSA, the user undertaking shall ensure conformity with occupational health and safety requirements for the temporary agency worker at the user undertaking. The occupational health and safety of temporary agency workers must be guaranteed in the same way as for regular employees.

Before allowing a temporary agency worker to begin work, the user undertaking must determine whether the temporary agency worker possesses the necessary professional knowledge and skills, while also confirming that the temporary agency worker possesses the necessary knowledge concerning occupational health and safety.

The user undertaking must carry out the instruction and training of the temporary agency worker. Given that the occupational safety and health training must take into consideration the employee’s qualifications and experiences, the leasing undertaking and the user undertaking must exchange information about the employee prior to the start of their training. It is also important that the instructor is able to communicate with the employee being trained and instruct them in a way that they understand. In addition to other obligations, it is the obligation of the user undertaking to acquire work clothes and personal protective equipment for the temporary agency worker.

If a labour inspector visiting an undertaking discovers occupational health and safety violations related to a temporary agency worker, a precept is issued to the user undertaking.

Medical examination

An employer has to organise a medical examination for an employee whose health may be affected by working environment hazards or the nature of the work, as specified in the assessment of risks in the working environment. Examples include contact with noise, vibrations, working in a forced position, working with display screen equipment for more than half the working time.

In the case of temporary agency work relationships, the user undertaking must organise the medical examination for the employee. The law does not prohibit the leasing undertaking from concluding a special agreement with the user undertaking, according to which the medical examination is organised by the user undertaking, but at the expense of the leasing undertaking. In this case, the temporary agency worker undergoes exactly the same medical examination as the user undertaking’s own employees – the medical examination meets the expectations of the user undertaking and there is no difference in the treatment of the employees. At the same time, there are no unreasonable costs for the user undertaking.

Registration and investigation of occupational accidents and occupational diseases

Pursuant to OHSA the circumstances of and reasons for an occupational accident and occupational illness shall be determined by an investigation, which shall be organised the employer. In case of temporary agency work the fulfilment of this obligation is entrusted to the user undertaking, i.e. if a temporary agency worker has an accident at work, the user undertaking where the temporary agency worker was working at the time of the accident must register the accident and determine all of the circumstances.

According to the law, the employer shall present a report to the injured party or a person representing their interests and the Labour Inspectorate. The report will specify, among other things, the measures being implemented by the employer for the prevention of similar occupational accidents and occupational diseases. As the user company shall prepare the report on the accident involving the temporary agency worker, a copy of the report on the occupational accident must also be received by the employee’s actual employer, i.e. the leasing undertaking.

Manual for occupational health doctors

In 2022, the Estonian Society of Occupational Health Physicians completed a manual commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs, which helps occupational health doctors to carry out medical examinations. The manual contains guidelines for occupational health doctors on the practical use of all groups of risk factors (physical, physiological, biological, chemical and psychosocial) when conducting medical examinations. The manual is a tool that occupational health doctors can use in their daily work.

The manual helps to make more optimal use of the limited time allotted for medical examinations and standardise their performance and quality, as the manual allows the health effects of working environment risk factors to be treated in accordance with a common standard. The manual serves as input for the harmonisation and improvement of the quality of occupational health services. This means that the effects of working environment risk factors are assessed in the same way regardless of the service provider and in accordance with agreed rules, which are based on scientific research, relevant treatment guides and codes of conduct, international standards and relevant legislation.

The manual also provides explanations for better understanding of occupational health services and for good cooperation for other primary care physicians and medical specialists as well as other healthcare professionals who are an integral part of the work of occupational health doctors when it comes to cooperation on differential diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and approach to health.

Videos on how to read the manual are available at:

Last updated: 10.02.2023