Health and safety and well-being at work in the “Land of Thousand Lakes”

Katalin Sas

On 26-28 August, Helsinki hosted the international conference on ”Work, Well-being and Wealth – Active Ageing at Work”.

The aim of the conference was to bring together researchers, experts and European networks in the field, and to present and discuss the major issues related to the ageing of the working population and its consequences for the workplaces and society, identifying research needs and solutions. The conference dealt with topics such as work ability, disability prevention, return to work, exploring the different aspects of the extension of working life. The conference programme included among others sessions on psychosocial factors supporting participation in working life, on the management of competencies for sustainable work, and on disability prevention and reintegration.

Are the Scandinavian countries different? – was asked in one of the sessions dealing with the Scandinavian approach to the development of working life, including presentations from Finland, Denmark and Norway.  We learnt about the history of working life development in Finland and how the social partners in Finland work together to foster productivity and quality of working life, as well as about the Danish national return-to-work programme and the inclusive working life in Norway.

In the times of the economic crisis, the economic aspects of the promotion of well-being at work are obviously of high relevance, so it is not surprising that a session was dedicated to the economic dimension of OSH, including among others presentations of renowned experts in OSH economics, Dr. EmileTompa from Canada and Prof. Guy Ahonen from Finland. The conference also included the World Café discussion forum. One of the World Café sites dealing with questions related to work participation of younger workers, was chaired by EU-OSHA Director Christa Sedlatschek. The conclusions of the World Café discussions were reported on the following day.

With about 200 participants from all over the world, the conference provided participants with a wealth of up-to-date information and plenty of opportunities for networking.

The conference abstracts are available.

During the conference, Dr. Sedlatschek also met Prof. Harri Vainio, the Director General of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. At the meeting, new ways of cooperation with the Topic Centre network were discussed, as well as the collaboration with the PEROSH network and the Nordic Institute for Advanced Training in Occupational Health (NIVA).

Another  meeting with the Director of the Centre for Occupational Safety, Jorma Löhman, provided a great amount of interesting  and useful information with respect to the role of Centre for Occupational Safety in the Finnish OSH system and as part of the National Network and an insight in how social partners in Finland work together to improve health and safety at work.

After the conference, the journey continued to Tampere, where Dr. Sedlatschek visited the Department of occupational safety and health at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Director General Leo Suomaa presented the Finnish OSH system, the strategy and policies. The Finnish National Working Life Development Strategy was launched in 2012 and is based on the recognition that innovation and productivity are linked to the quality of working life.

The Strategy’s vision is to make working life in Finland the best in Europe by 2020. Its four focus areas are Innovation and productivity, Trust and cooperation, Health and well-being at work, and a Competent workforce.

The Forum for well-being at work was launched in 2012 to support the implementation of the Strategy.

At the meeting, Dr. Sedlatschek presented EU-OSHA Multi-annual Strategic Programme 2014-2020 and the Annual Management Plan 2014 and answered the questions from the audience. Finally, Dr Sedlatschek met with the Sub-Committee for the cooperation with EU-OSHA, where she explained EU-OSHA activities in 1013-14.

All in all, it was animating and inspiring to see the high level of commitment to well-being at work of all actors involved and the good cooperation between the social partners and other stakeholders.