The Labour Inspectorate has created a working environment consultant service to provide employers with more personal support and advice. The consulting service is offered all over Estonia, regardless of location. The consulting service is free for companies.
The manager of a small and medium-sized company is exposed to dozens of subjects in their daily work: sales, marketing, accounting, production, customer complaints, personnel work, and much more, which requires special knowledge and skills. In the context of all these problems, issues related to the safety and health of workers may not receive enough attention, but this can be detrimental to both the employee and the employer, for example if the employee suffers an injury at work.
Issues concerning the working environment are becoming increasingly important in a situation where the labour force in Estonia is shrinking and employers have to make themselves attractive to employees. For example, why should a trained and qualified welder want to work in a company where there is no ventilation and poor conditions when they have the opportunity to go to work in a company where more is invested in the well-being of employees?
What do the consultants do?
In 2015, working environment consultants started working at the Labour Inspectorate, whose main task is to consult employers on occupational health and safety in the company. In addition, they answer questions related to the working environment, write articles and brochures, and share knowledge through information days and trainings.
The consultant advises the employer on setting up a work environment management system, rather than looking for individual violations in the working environment. They can be invited to a general company consultation covering the entire working environment and documentation, as well as to a consultation on a specific area of the working environment (e.g. use of personal protective equipment).
The service of consulting the whole company is offered to small and medium-sized companies. In large companies, the area of consultation must be defined before the visit, such as the organisation of health examinations or mentoring and training.
It is also possible to involve the counsellor in the investigation of accidents at work: in this case, they give advice on how to find out the circumstances of the accident, how to reach the root causes of the accident, and what to do to eliminate them. The working environment consultant does not prepare internal documents or their projects (e.g. risk analysis, safety manual).
How is the consultation done?
The consultation of the working environment in the company begins with the introduction of the company’s employees and the consultant. If necessary, it is specified which part of the working environment or which risk factor should be paid special attention to. Then, a tour of the company’s working environment (production workshop, office, cowshed, etc.) is given, during which the consultant gives recommendations for improvement. The advantage of a consultant is the ability to look at the work environment with fresh eyes – they are not used to a cord in the aisle, for example, and will definitely notice it. At the same time, employees who see the cord every day no not even notice it anymore.
When the tour in the working environment is completed, the working environment consultant examines the company’s documents (including risk analysis, safety instructions, registration of instructions) and, if necessary, makes recommendations to make them more relevant. Finally, the identified shortcomings and recommendations for improving the working environment are discussed once again. Within five working days after the visit, the working environment consultant will send a written summary of the visit to the employer.
The employer invited a working environment consultant to the company with the aim of focusing on paths near dangerous workplaces. The employer had created a new and safer path and wanted confirmation that it was safe. During the consultation, the consultants made recommendations to the employer to improve stair markings and outdoor lighting, as well as the introduction of portable danger signs if there is a temporary obstacle on the path, and the installation of hazardous chemical markings and barriers on mobile work platforms.
After consulting the company, the employer is given time to implement the consultant’s recommendations, during which time labour inspectors will not inspect the company. Exceptions are situations that indicate a serious violation of occupational health and safety requirements – these may be evident from a notification or complaint of an accident at work or an occupational disease.
How can you invite a working environment consultant to your company?
If you would like to invite a working environment consultant to your company, send an e-mail to the general address of the Labour Inspectorate firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions, please contact Rein Reisberg, the working environment consultant (phone 504 8935, email@example.com) or Piret Kaljula, the working environment consultant (phone 529 5020, firstname.lastname@example.org).