Occupational safety crimes and corporate criminal liability in Finland

We will draw a comprehensive picture of social debates and controversies surrounding the amendments, and determine the discursive construction of occupational safety and corporate criminal liability. Our primary aim is to examine the process of lawmaking and the implementation of the law in order to assess the interplay between contemporary social circumstances and the changed conceptions of occupational safety on the one hand, and between legislation and sentencing practices on the other.

RESEARCH BACKGROUND

The struggle for corporate criminal liability (CLL) in Finland has been long. It took 22 years to finally materialize in legislation, as Act 743/1995 became effective in April 1995. As a consequence of the political dispute, the law initially only applied to a handful of offences. Occupational safety crimes were left beyond the scope of legislation. During 1995‒2000, the prosecuting authority made only nine claims of corporate criminal liability and only five convictions. Four of the convictions were of environmental crimes. In 2003, the law was finally extended to apply to occupational safety crimes. Through this amendment, the legislator aimed to express particular disapproval of safety crimes.

Despite the fact that CCL has been effective in safety crimes since 2003, hardly any studies have examined its emergence, development and implementation. The volume of occupational safety crimes reported to the authorities more than doubled during 1996‒2010, and in 2010 the amount of safety crimes reached 238 cases. Since 2005, the amount of CCL convictions has also been on the rise: in 2005 there were two convictions, but in 2014 the amount of convictions was 32.

Figure 1: Amount of CCL convictions of occupational safety crimes 2005‒2014. Source: Statistics Finland 2014; Finnish Legal Register Centre 2015

Figure 1: Amount of CCL convictions of occupational safety crimes 2005‒2014. Source: Statistics Finland 2014; Finnish Legal Register Centre 2015

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

1) Under what junctures and with what kind of reasoning was the 1995 corporate criminal
liability law reform achieved?

2) In what types of incidents and to what kinds of organizations is corporate criminal
liability applied?

3) What kinds of conceptions and understandings of occupational safety, management
of workplace safety, responsibility, and liability do the debates concerning the law reform and
the discourses used in the sentences create?

DATA AND METHODS

The data consist of legislative documents issued during 1973-2003 (government bills, parliament debates, committee reports, and recommendations) and court decisions during 2010‒2014, in which claims for a CCL conviction was accepted (N= 154). We will apply both quantitative and qualitative methods in the study. Quantitative examination aims, for example, to recognize recurrent patterns by grouping the various key characteristics of both the law-making process and the sentences. The qualitative examination of the case studies, selected on the basis of the strengths of the quantitative examination, will in turn seek to answer questions regarding, for example, justifications, metaphors, discursive strategies, and constructions of the meanings of occupational safety and liability.

RESEARCH GROUP

Anne Alvesalo-Kuusi, Project Leader
Ari Väänänen, Minna Janhonen
Professor Jussi Tapani, University of Turku, Dept. of Law

SCHEDULE

2014‒2016

FUNDING

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
The Finnish Work Environment Fund
University of Turku, Dept. of Law

CONTACT

You can contact our advisory experts by emailing them at firstname.surname@ttl.fi.

Anne Alvesalo-Kuusi