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Issues with occupational safety in Estonia persist, but exemplary enterprises deserve recognition

18.09.2023 | 11:47

Although occupational health and safety in Estonia has made significant progress over the past decade, the Labour Inspectorate still observes several shortcomings in the safety of working environments. At the same time, we see more and more outstanding enterprises every year, doing their best to provide their employees with a positive and healthy working environment. In recognition of such enterprises, the Labour Inspectorate is awarding the Good Working Environment Award, this year marking the 9th time the award has been given.
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On the one hand, the number of occupational accidents in Estonia has decreased – from 4,148 in 2012 to 3,712 last year.  ‘However, there are still around 10 occupational accidents in Estonia every day,’ says Kaire Saarep, Director General of the Labour Inspectorate, ‘and in total we lost around 1.1 million working hours and 5.5 million euros last year due to occupational accidents, which is too much.’  She provides the example that in the construction sector alone, more than 85% of inspected enterprises have occupational safety-related shortcomings.

Every organisation is obliged to assess the potential risks in their working environment and find the best measures to mitigate them. Saarep explains that a good working environment is more than just physical safety (railings, personal protective equipment etc). It also includes mental aspects, so psychosocial risk factors must also be taken into account during a risk assessment. ‘The more an employer has done to protect their employees’ well-being – both their physical and mental health – the better the outcome for all parties involved,’ Saarep adds. ‘A cared-for employee is also more motivated to contribute to the enterprise’s goals.’

The main concerns are related to work instructions and unequal treatment

There are various concerns related to the working environment. The most common relate to work instruction and training – instructions that are overly general are often provided, which do not take into account the specificities of a particular job and working environment. As a result, employees are unfamiliar with safe working techniques, leading to a higher likelihood of accidents. In addition, it is very important for experienced employees to demonstrate safe working methods and the proper personal protective equipment to use.

In our previous evaluations of candidates for the Good Working Environment Award, we have seen situations where the head office has well thought out and organised activities, such as birthday celebrations or ‘fruit days’, however these perks are not always available to employees working outside the head office. There have also been situations where a work unit that is mostly working remotely is not in line with legal requirements, for example they may lack a first-aid provider or adequate employee training.

Best practices set an example for others

In order to share best practices and recognise capable and exemplary enterprises, the Labour Inspectorate invites all enterprises to apply for the Good Working Environment Award. This year, to ensure that other enterprises also benefit from the award, we are asking enterprises to share their best practices and experiences of increasing employee well-being and making the working environment safer.

Last year’s award was won by Bondora Group AS in the category of small enterprises and by Interconnect Product Assembly AS in the category of larger enterprises.

The deadline for applying for the Good Working Environment Award is 6 October. Read more about application conditions HERE.

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