20 April 2020

Updated 7 August 2020.
These instructions will be modified as required as we obtain further information on the COVID-19.

If somebody is suspected to have coronavirus at workplace, he/she should carry out a symptom assessment using the Omaolo-websiteHe/she can also book an appointment at a health centre or occupational health care.  
 
If somebody is diagnosed with a coronavirus infection, efforts are first made to find out where he/she was infected and who else may have been infected by you. This tracing work is carried out in order to help contain the epidemic.  

Establishing a preparedness team 

It is recommended that workplaces establish a team that takes responsibility for the actions which are necessary for a potential epidemic.

The team will co-ordinate preparations and employee communications, keep the contingency plan up-to-date and provide instructions as necessary on topics such as organising work, personal protection, cleaning, cases of illness and the effects of the Government’s restrictive measures -The team will monitor the national situation, the Finnish Government, the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and other ministries as well as by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The team will also assess the impact of various scenarios, such as quarantines, on operations and supply chains.

Occupational safety

  • According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the employer must ensure the health and safety of employees at work.
  • Events for 500 people and more have been allowed since the beginning of August 2020 but the guidelines of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Education and Culture need to be followed. However, if the employer considers, on the basis of its own risk assessment, that the event cannot be arranged, then the employer’s instructions must be followed.
  • See also The web site of the Regional State Administrative Agencies
  • Take account of the changing conditions and situations at work when assessing workplace hazards and inform employees about them.
  • Arrange orientation for employees to new tasks and ensure sufficient competence.
  • Guide employees and make sure they protect themselves and follow the instructions given.
  • Take account of possible increased solitary work when assessing hazards and arranging employee induction training.
  • Pay attention to the ability of employees to cope both physically and mentally in the exceptional times we are living. Make sure that employees have sufficient time to recover. Cf.
  • Focus on safety communications at the workplace and ensure that everybody is reached.   Inform everyone working on the same premises about safety matters. 
  • The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has drawn up instructions for a safe return to work.

Remote work and working times 

  • Remote work is an efficient way to prevent COVID19 infections. Many workplaces continue remote work  in some extent at least. However also at remote work one needs to ensure that the work processes run smoothly, the employees are ok won’t get burn-out. This a challenge for the management. 
  • Use flexible working hours if possible and divide the personnel in groups which can e,g, work remote in turns.
  • Also consider  organizing the meals and breaks in turns as well as the meetings and trainings online (video conferences).
  • Encourage the personnel to bicycle and walk to work. 
  • Refer to the guidelines regarding remote work.

COVID-19 mechanism of transmission and the severity of the disease 

The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) primarily spreads by droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. When in close proximity to others, coronavirus can also be transmitted via contact if, for example, an infected person coughs in his hands and then touches another person.  There are no known cases of infection via items, animals or foodstuff.   

The majority of those infected with coronavirus have a mild illness and they recover well. However, some people may experience serious symptoms. The majority of patients who have experienced serious symptoms have been elderly, and many of them also have underlying illnesses.  The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s Information page on the novel coronavirus.

COVID-19 prevention measures at the workplace 

Prevention measures protect employees, customers and partners alike. The control measures aim to protect the vital functions of society.

Cleanliness and hygiene 

Maintain a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene at the workplace. Unclean surfaces present a risk of infection. Hygiene-related measures also help prevent other infectious diseases, such as seasonal influenza and gastrointestinal diseases.

  • Cleaning guidelines are available on the FIOH website: Cleaning guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19 infections
  • Maintaining a high standard of hygiene and general cleanliness is especially important at workplaces where people work close to other people and used shared equipment, tools or instruments.
  • Keyboards and other devices should also be cleaned regularly. Request cleaning instructions from equipment manufacturers and suppliers and make sure that the necessary cleaning supplies are easily available.

Provide guidance on regular and effective hand washing (the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare video) and remind people about proper coughing hygiene (the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare video).

  • Ensure that everyone who visits the workplace, including partners and subcontractors, have access to hand washing facilities. If hand washing is not possible, keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer available.
  • Remember to observe the guidelines yourself – managers and supervisors play an important role in setting the right example.
  • Instructions on hand washing and coughing hygiene can be printed from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s material bank (A4, A3, MP4)
  • More detailed instructions on hand washing and coughing.

Sickness absence and coronavirus tests

Consider whether there is a need to change the sick leave policies of the workplace.

  • When an employee has symptoms consistent with a coronavirus infection, they have the opportunity to be tested for the coronavirus.  The employee must contact the occupational health services, where they will be referred for a test if necessary.  Tests are performed both by several private health care providers and by the public health centres and hospitals.  See the corona tests (the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare)
  • Please adopt the practice of self-certified sick leave at the workplace.  The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health supports the recommendation by the Confederation of Finnish Industries on adopting the practice of self-certified sick leave during epidemics. This would make it possible for employees to stay home to recover by notifying the employer themselves, without a doctor’s certificate, for 3–7 days, for example.  Guideline of the Confederation of Finnish Industries

Employees in risk groups

  • Please see the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health guidelines for the protection of employees in risk groups.
  • If an employee belonging to the risk group is concerned about the risk of infection in the workplace, they can be referred to the occupational health services. The occupational health care helps with risk assessment and you can negotiate and agree together on possible changes in work arrangements or work tasks.

If an employee develops COVID-19

  • If an employee becomes infected with the coronavirus, they will receive instructions regarding further action from the physician in charge of communicable diseases and from the authority in charge.
  • Please also see the Data Protection Ombudsman’s Guidelines, which, among other things, deal with the processing of employee health data in the event of illness.

Travel and quarantine 

When an employee returns from a trip 

Further information please contact viestinta@ttl.fi 

Kristiina Kulha, Senior Communications Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, kristiina.kulha@ttl.fi

The guidelines of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) are drawn up together with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (SMAH) and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. We also follow the publications of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), COVID-19

World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus