Workplace Safety The Role of 'Skyddsombud' Part 2

By Beyondo, 9. Nov 2023


Confidant or ‘Safety Representative’

In most jurisdictions, any company that has employees is required by law to have some kind of health and safety protocol in place, which often includes the appointment of a Safety Representative or similar role.

The Safety Representative plays a crucial role in ensuring the health and safety of employees by identifying potential hazards, monitoring compliance with health and safety regulations, facilitating training, and serving as a liaison between employees and management on health and safety issues.

In part one of this blog, we went over how the role of 'Skyddsombud' works in Sweden. In this blog we will cover what it looks like in other countries. 

How does it work in other countries?

 The specifics can vary greatly depending on the country and the size and nature of the company. For example, in some countries, every company with a certain number of employees is required to appoint a Safety Representative. In other places, only companies in certain industries (like construction or manufacturing, which have higher risks of physical harm) may be required to have a dedicated Safety Representative.

In the Netherlands, for example, there is a similar role to the confidant, called a "vertrouwenspersoon". This person is also a neutral party to whom employees can turn if they encounter problems at the workplace, such as harassment or discrimination. However, there is not always an exact equivalent to the role of safety representative.

In the UK, the equivalent of a safety representative takes the form of "trade union safety representatives" or "health and safety representatives", who have a similar role in monitoring the work environment and working with the employer to improve safety in the workplace.

In the USA, on the other hand, there is no direct equivalent role to the confidant. However, there are workplace policies and laws against harassment and discrimination, and companies often have HR departments where employees can report problems. The equivalent to the safety representative can in some cases be "union stewards" or "safety representatives", but their role and authority can vary greatly depending on the workplace and industry.

It is important to remember that even though the roles of confidant and safety representative can exist in some form in many countries, their exact tasks, powers, and the way they are appointed can vary greatly. This is due to a range of factors, including labor law, cultural norms, industry standards, and specific workplace policies.

A law to protect whistleblowers

In Sweden, there is legislation to protect whistleblowers, i.e., individuals who sound the alarm about serious misconduct at a workplace. This legislation aims to ensure that employees can report misconduct without risking reprisals.

On January 1, 2017, a law came into force in Sweden that provided further protection to whistleblowers: the Act on special protection against reprisals for employees who blow the whistle about serious misconduct. A renewed law was established in 2023.

According to this law, an employee cannot be punished, dismissed, or otherwise subjected to negative consequences for having raised the alarm about serious misconduct. "Serious misconduct" includes criminality, life-threatening dangers, serious harm to an individual's health, and other similar circumstances.

It's important to note that the law provides protection for alarms sounded within the company as well as to regulatory authorities and other relevant bodies. For alarms to the media or the public to be protected, the employee must first have sounded the alarm internally or to a supervisory authority, the employer must not have remedied the misconduct, and the alarm must be of a particularly serious nature.

All employers with at least ten employees are also required to have procedures for internal alarms, so that employees know how to proceed if they want to blow the whistle on suspected misconduct.

The protection for whistleblowers is a vital part of Swedish labor law and contributes to promoting an open and responsible workplace culture.

It could also be interesting to see how it is regulated in other EU countries:

  • Sweden (Sverige - Skyddsombud): In Sweden, worker representatives, known as "Skyddsombud," play a crucial role in ensuring workplace safety and health. The relevant law is "Arbetsmiljölagen" (Work Environment Act).
  • Italy (Italia - Rappresentante dei Lavoratori per la Sicurezza): In Italy, "Rappresentante dei Lavoratori per la Sicurezza" (RLS) are responsible for representing employees' interests in matters of workplace safety. The laws governing this role may vary, but they are usually established by the "Testo Unico sulla Sicurezza sul Lavoro" (Consolidated Text on Workplace Safety).

  • Germany (Deutschland - Betriebsrat): In Germany, "Betriebsräte" or workers' councils are an essential part of workplace safety. Relevant laws include "Arbeitsschutzgesetz" (Act on Occupational Safety and Health).

  • Belgium (België - Delegué à la prévention): Belgium has "Delegué à la prévention" who oversee and enhance workplace safety. Laws governing this role can be found in the "Arbeidsreglementering" (Labor Regulations).

  • Norway (Norge - verneombud): In Norway, "verneombud" are responsible for monitoring and improving workplace safety. The relevant law is "Arbeidsmiljøloven" (Working Environment Act).

  • Spain (España - Delegado de Prevención): In Spain, "Delegados de Prevención" are responsible for overseeing and improving workplace safety. Relevant laws are found in the "Ley de Prevención de Riesgos Laborales" (Occupational Risk Prevention Law).

  • Finland (Suomi - Työsuojeluvaltuutettu): In Finland, worker representatives known as "Työsuojeluvaltuutettu" are responsible for monitoring and improving workplace safety. The relevant law is "Työturvallisuuslaki" (Occupational Safety and Health Act).

  • France (France - Délégué du personnel): France has "Délégués du personnel" who monitor and enhance workplace safety. Laws regarding this role are outlined in the "Code du travail" (Labor Code).

  • United Kingdom (UK - Health and Safety Representative): In the United Kingdom, health and safety representatives play a role in promoting workplace safety. The law that governs health and safety at work in the UK includes the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

  • Poland (Polska - Inspektor BHP): In Poland, workplace safety is overseen by "Inspektor BHP" (Occupational Health and Safety Inspector). Relevant laws include the "Ustawa o bezpieczeństwie i higienie pracy" (Act on Occupational Safety and Health).

These worker representatives, regardless of the specific name or language used, share a common goal of safeguarding the well-being of employees in their respective countries by advocating for safe and healthy work environments. Please note that laws and regulations can change, so it's essential to consult the most up-to-date sources or contact relevant authorities for the latest information.

A significant EU law that regulates occupational health and safety across member states of the European Union. This law is known as the "Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work," officially titled Directive 89/391/EEC. It serves as the foundational framework for health and safety regulations in the workplace across the EU.

Key points and objectives of the Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work include:

  • Protection of Workers: The directive aims to protect the safety and health of workers in the European Union.

  • Risk Assessment: Employers are required to assess workplace risks and take measures to eliminate or reduce them.

  • Worker Involvement: Workers should be actively involved in safety and health matters in the workplace, including the appointment of safety representatives or worker consultation mechanisms.

  • Prevention and Training: Employers are obliged to take preventive measures, provide information, and offer training to employees to ensure a safe working environment.

  • Medical Surveillance: It provides for medical surveillance of workers in specific situations.

  • Accident Reporting: Employers must report accidents and incidents at work.

  • Specific Risks: The directive covers specific risks and activities, including handling of dangerous substances, work with display screen equipment, and more.

Directive sets the general principles each EU member state is responsible for implementing specific legislation and regulations in accordance with the directive's framework. Therefore, the precise laws and regulations governing workplace safety may vary from one EU member state to another.

Additionally, there are specific EU directives that address particular aspects of workplace safety, such as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), the management of dangerous substances, and more. These directives provide further guidance and requirements for member states to ensure the safety and health of workers.

If you are in need of knowing more on how to make sure your company is compliant to the safety regulations in Sweden and on how you can reduce fallouts due to illness of your personnel, Rehappen can guide you further!