Occupational health activities

The action plan that you draw up together with your occupational health partner creates a framework for your collaboration. The occupational health services carry out a broad range of preventive measures. By drawing on your partner’s expertise, you get support for your own and your employees’ work ability and health.

Contents of preventive activities

Your occupational health partner takes care of your own and your employees’ work ability and health. That is why their activities are focused on the prevention of disability and illnesses.

Your occupational health partner provides you and your employees with support for your work ability and health in many different ways.

Workplace surveys

Your occupational health partner analyses, through workplace surveys and other methods, the resources, work load, exposures and risk factors related to the work performed in your company and how these affect your work ability and health. Up-to-date workplace surveys are a prerequisite for your company receiving reimbursement from Kela. 

Health examinations

Your occupational health partner monitors and supports your employees’ work ability and health through health examinations.

Activities that maintain work ability

With the support of your occupational health services you can take care of activities that maintain work ability. They provide you with support and advice for planning and implementing early support practices and for monitoring absences due to illness. They also support you when your employees return to work after a long sick leave period and in assessing and monitoring work ability and the need for rehabilitation. 

Work ability assessments and medical certificates

If you are concerned about the work ability of your employee, you can ask your occupational health partner to assess it. Your occupational health physician will carry out a work ability assessment and draw up other medical certificates as required and present their view of how your employee can continue in their work.

Monitoring and rehabilitation

The occupational health services support your employee with partial work ability to cope at work and monitor their performance. The occupational health services provide you with information on the rehabilitation options and advice on how your employee can seek rehabilitation.

Advice and guidance

With occupational health professionals providing you with advice and guidance, you can increase your company’s resources, reduce work load and support everyone’s work ability. Advice and guidance are given to both individuals and teams, departments or units. Advisory and guidance services are always part of occupational health activities, and your occupational health partner additionally offers these services according to a plan based on your company’s needs.

Assessing and planning first aid capabilities

Occupational health professionals assess and plan your company’s first aid capabilities. They provide instructions and advice on, for example, the contents of first aid cabinets and first aid training needs.

You can find the description of the contents of occupational health services in the Occupational Health Care Act and in the Government’s Decree on the principles of good occupational health care practice.

Health examinations are based on needs

The health examinations carried out by occupational health services are always based on the needs identified at the workplace. You and your occupational health partner will agree on all health examinations. You are required by law to arrange some health examinations for your employees, while some are voluntary.

  • Exposure based health examinations are statutory, i.e. mandatory for both the employer and employee if your company presents exposure factors that exceed the set limits, such as noise, chemicals, dust, biological agents, vibrations, night work or the threat of violence. The examinations are used to monitor that your employees do not fall ill due to these risk factors and to assess their aptitude to perform hazardous work. The occupational health services provide you with a summary of the exposure based health examinations. It helps you make important changes that support your employees’ safety at the workplace. There is strong evidence from research that the measures carried out based on these health examinations are effective.

  • Health examinations based on the health demands of the work are also mandatory. You must arrange them and the employee is obligated to participate in them. These examinations are carried out in jobs that pose special health requirements in terms of occupational safety. Such occupations include, for example, firefighters, aircraft pilots and police officers.

  • Health examinations related to the promotion of health and work ability are voluntary for both the employer and employee. They include, for example, examinations for different age groups and pre-employment examinations in jobs that do not involve particular risk factors. The contents of these examinations are also planned based on your company’s needs.

There is no scientific proof of the effectiveness of non-targeted health examinations. However, if the health examinations are aimed at, for example, reducing absences due to illness, they must be targeted correctly through screening, for those ones in risk. Screening can be carried out by the occupational health services based on electronic health questionnaires or sick leave data. Research has also shown that health risks can be influenced by guidance provided to individuals and groups.

Supporting work ability is part of management

In your daily work, you manage all of your company’s operations and investments in a systematic way. You evaluate the risks involved in your business and their management. Since employees are your company’s most valuable asset, taking care of their well-being and supporting their work ability is an essential part of your management and leadership role. Supporting work ability consists of early support activities carried out together with your occupational health partner, monitoring absences due to illness, supporting employees’ return to work and assessing the need for rehabilitation. Agree on the actions you will take to support work ability and how you will communicate these practices to your personnel.

Occupational health services are your partner in supporting work ability. The workplace surveys carried out by your occupational health team will help you timplement useful measures to improve work and the work environment in your company. With their support, you will be able to assess the work load and risk factors of your work and develop work so that it supports work ability and health. They will also provide you with comprehensive reports and sick leave data to help you monitor the impacts of the activities.

When planning, together with your occupational health partner, how you will support, monitor and manage work ability describe the roles and responsibilities of the employer, supervisors, employees and the occupational health services as clearly and pragmatically as possible. It is all about creating for your company an operating culture and a clear operating model that will allow you to detect problems related to the work as early as possible and have the know-how to systematically address them. The earlier you address problems, the more you can influence them.

Ensure that your supervisors have enough expertise to support work ability and to identify their employees’ needs for early support. Also make sure that supervisors have the skills to monitor the impacts of their actions.

Read more about the employer’s early support activities

The objective of the work ability assessment is to help your employee, their supervisor, yourself and the occupational health team to plan your employee’s work and work environment so that they can retain or improve their work ability. Your employee will be able to continue at work despite health issues if you modify their work and workload to suit them or make use of other work ability support means.

If you suspect that your employee’s work ability has declined due to health issues, you can instruct the supervisor to request an assessment of the employee’s work ability from the occupational health services. This must be done at the latest when your employee has been paid sickness allowance for 90 weekdays. These 90 days can be an uninterrupted period or made up of several shorter periods of sick leave. At the same time, you will look into the employee’s possibilities to return to work together with the occupational health team and the employee.

Request the work ability assessment in writing and fill in the relevant form. You may have your own form in your company, or you can use your occupational health partner’s form.

Include in the form

  • the situation or the events that have raised your concerns  
  • the contents of your discussions with your employee concerning the situation  
  • your own and your employee’s view of the situation.

After having received your request, your occupational health physician will make a comprehensive assessment of your employee’s work ability and state of health. The assessment often starts with the occupational health nurse interviewing the employee and requesting medical documents from the places where your employee has been examined and treated. The work ability assessment is always carried out by an occupational healths physician. Sometimes the assessment can be completed within a couple of weeks, but sometimes opinions from medical specialistised doctors and other professionals are required, in which case it will take longer. The occupational health team can give you an estimate of when the assessment will be completed.

Once the work ability assessment is ready, the occupational health physician will first disclose the results to your employee and may also disclose them directly to you with the employee’s permission. The written assessment only states the conclusions as to the employee’s work ability in relation to their job and possibly a description of the need for support or adjustments to the work; never information concerning their state of health or illnesses.

A common practice is that you discuss the results of the work ability assessment and necessary measures in a work ability i.e. occupational health negotiation (sometimes referred to as a tripartite negotiation) together with your employee and the occupational health team. From occupational health services, the occupational health physician is usually present, sometimes also an occupational health nurse, psychologist or physiotherapist. The employee can, if they wish, bring a support person with them. The emphasis of an occupational health negotiation is to find out what kind of arrangements can be put in place at the workplace to support the employee’s work ability. The employee’s state of health may only be discussed if they give the permission to do so.

You can organise work ability negotiations in other situations too. Negotiations can be organised, for example, when an employee needs assistive devices at work or is returning to work from a long period of sick leave. The work ability negotiation can be initiated by the employee themselves, the supervisor or the occupational health services.

Occupational health services provide advice and guidance

Providing advice and guidance is one of the occupational health services’ most important ways to influence your employees’ work ability and health. It is also important that you know how to ask for it based on your company’s needs. 

Your occupational health partner provides comprehensive advice and guidance to both individuals and groups on: 

  1. The occupational health services’ targets and contents
  2. The occupational health collaboration and arranging work ability management and monitoring as well as early support practices 
  3. The following aspects related to work and working conditions:​
    • the health risks and hazards present in the work and at the workplace, their significance and protecting against them, and first aid arrangements  
    • health risks and hazards associated with the work methods, work arrangements, working hours, conditions at the workplace and their changes, as well as the management thereof​  
    • the significance of work resources that maintain and promote health and work ability  
    • healthy and safe working methods 
    • occupational diseases and accidents and their prevention  
    • work-related diseases and other work-related ill health  
    • developing work, the work environment and the work community  
    • preventing and managing work-related physical violence and harassment and ill-treatment
  4. The following aspects related to work and working conditions:
    • maintaining and promoting employees’ health and work ability and preventing disability at the various stages of a career  
    • preventing substance abuse and early identification, treatment and referral for treatment of those with substance abuse issues  
    • when there is a threat of unemployment  
    • to narrow the health gaps between employees

Medical care is focused on occupational health

You can also buy volontary medical care services for your employees. They will also be provided by your occupational health services. You decide how large a service package you buy. The most common solution is to buy general practitioner level medical care, complemented by a suitably large range of justified lab tests and imaging examinations. You can also buy specialist services. In recent years, different services in the form of insurance have also become more popular. 

Good medical care provided in connection with occupational health services is focussed on occupational health. That means that also in medical care, the emphasis is on diseases whose early detection and proper treatment contribute to maintaining and promoting work ability and functional ability. The medical care provided by your occupational health partner best supports your employees’ work ability when the professionals in your occupational health team know your situation and make use of the information they obtain through consultations in your other occupational health collaboration. 

Occupational health collaboration steps

  1. Choose an occupational health partner.  
  2. Conclude an occupational health service agreement.  
  3. Carry out a workplace survey.  
  4. Draw up an action plan.  
  5. Start up the occupational health collaboration.  
  6. Assess how you have succeeded together