The work environment responsibility of politicians

Politicians in assemblies and boards are the ultimate representative for municipalities and county councils as employers.

As a politician in an assembly, it gives you the prerequisite for work environment management and you must see that the Work Environment Act is followed in the activities of the board (the administrative board is also considered a board). This is demanded by the Local Government Act.

The majority of work environment management is taken care of in practice by civil servants. In the daily work they make decisions according to municipal delegation from the boards.

Systematic work environment management is a help

How should you, in your position as a politician, see that there is a good work environment for the staff in our schools, in our hospitals and social welfare offices, and in care work with the elderly and the sick?

Through systematic work environment management you can manage the organisation so that staff and pupils have a good work environment, both psychological and physical. Systematic work environment work demands that the employer should investigate work relationships and assess the risks of ill health and accidents. Steps should be taken to fix the risks. Steps not taken immediately must be part of an action plan.

Systematic work environment management must be included in the organisation. What you should do according to the Local Government Act, the statutes and the order of delegation therefore needs to be coordinated with the regulations that systematic work environment management demands. The systematic work environment management should occur in cooperation with staff, safety representatives and pupils.

The regulations for systematic work environment management are in AFS 2001:01 ENG, (The Work Environment Authority’s Code of Statutes). They clarify the Work Environment Act’s demands on the employer to systematically investigate, carry out and follow up the operation so that the work environment is good.

The assembly has these tasks

  • Establish a written work environment policy in connection with goal and guidelines being set for the municipality or county council
  • Allocate work environment tasks to the boards and take tasks into the statutes for the work and working forms of the board
  • See that no work environment question gets lost between boards
  • Follow up the boards running the organisation in accordance with the work environment policy
  • Give the boards economic resources for work environment management in the assembly’s annual budget decision.

The board has these tasks

  • See that the organisation is run in accordance with the Work Environment Act and the provisions for work environment
  • Put into practice the decisions of the assembly and, among other things, see that concrete work environment goals are developed
  • Ensure that the administrative manager receives tasks in the systematic work environment management
  • Make sure that the administrative manager has the authority, resources, knowledge and competence to be able to run the work environment management
  • Give the administrative manager the right to allocate tasks far enough out in the organisation that systematic work environment management can be run out in the workplaces and that sufficient authorisation, resources, knowledge and competence follow them
  • See that the consequences for the work environment are assessed during changes
  • See that preventive measures in the work environment can be taken through taking up the matter of investments in the work environment in the annual budget proposal
  • See that systematic work environment management is followed up and works both at administration level and out in the workplaces.

Systematic work environment management (AFS 2001:01 ENG), provision

How to know what the work environment demands

How should you as a politician know which investments in the work environment are necessary? The answer is in the investigations of work relationships, which should be done regularly and which should be followed by an assessment of the risk of ill health and accidents.

Investigate and assess risks

Investigations should be done at ’grassroots level’. This can be safety rounds, individual dialogue with employees, staff meetings, measurement of noise and air pollution, medical checks, surveys and interviews. Here the first line managers are important – for example school principals, group managers, primary healthcare managers and clinic managers.
After an investigation, risks should be assessed and measures taken to fix them. If the measures are not immediately carried out, they should be included in a written action plan. Some measures must be decided by higher-level managers. Suggestions for measures are therefore channelled up to the manager who can make the decision. In some cases the board must take a position.

Action plan at administrative level

It is practical to make a single action plan with decided upon measures at the highest administrative level. The plan is a starting point for the budget work of the board.

An action plan should contain

  • Measures that improve the work environment
  • The point in time by which the measures should be carried out
  • Who should ensure that the measures are carried out in time.

Measures upon which the board is not able to decide are taken further by you and your political colleagues to the assembly.

Work environment problems should have solutions – an example

Civil servants need knowledge about how work environment questions can be handled and how ill health and accidents can be prevented. This applies especially to managers. For example, downsizing of civil servants is planned. They therefore need to have both sufficient knowledge and sufficient time to be able to do an impact assessment.

We will take as an example a school with bad air quality where the staff and pupils have headaches and problems with allergies. The school board cannot cancel the school activities because the budgeted funds are not sufficient for a new ventilation system. The board is then likely to reallocate accessible resources. If that is not sufficient, the board can be forced to postpone certain school activities, move the operation to other premises, borrow or hire suitable equipment or introduce new procedures which could improve the air quality.

Because politicians on the board must always make sure that employees have not been subjected to risks of ill health or accidents in their work, you and your political colleagues need to deal with the work environment problems so that there are good solutions.

No law has precedence over another

The activities in the municipality and the county council are regulated in different laws. This applies to, for example, the Swedish Act concerning Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional Impairments, the Health and Medical Services Act, the Education Act, and the Social Services Act. The Work Environment Act is judicially equal to other laws. No law takes precedence over another. The employer must, in a concrete situation, unite the employees’, users’, patients’ and clients’ interests.
Impact assessment of the work environment during changes
If the assembly has cut funding, for example for the child and youth board, this affects the preschool activities. The reduced budget perhaps means that there is talk of staff cutbacks. Before these can be carried out, the boards must see that there is a written impact assessment.

An impact assessment must contain

  • Which changes there are
  • Where the changes will be made
  • Which groups will be affected by these changes
  • Which risks of ill health and accidents the changes are assessed to bring with them.

Measures must be implemented to take away or reduce the risks as soon as practically possible. That which is not done immediately must be written in an action plan. The Work Environment Act does not accept that the employer did not put measures into place due to lack of funds.

Work environment responsibility and criminal liability

Work environment responsibility and criminal liability are imposed according to two completely different regulation systems. The work environment responsibility for the municipality and county council as employers appears in 3 chapter 2 § and 2a § Work Environment Act. This is a question about efforts that the employer is obliged to implement in order to prevent the employee from being affected by ill health or accidents. The Swedish Work Environment Authority has supervision over the Work Environment Act, and we check during inspections that the employer follows the provisions for the work environment.

Injunctions and bans

If the employer does not live up to their responsibility, we can decide about injunctions or bans, with or without penalty, towards the employer. The decision can be appealed to the government, which takes the decision in the matter. If our decision is upheld, the Administrative Court can impose a penalty fee. The amount of the fine burdens the entire municipality or county council. A decision without a penalty fine can lead to penalty, normally fines and in exceptional cases, prison. Both civil servants and politicians can be affected by penalties.

Occupational accidents are investigated

If an accident occurs at a workplace, the police and prosecutor can be brought in and a case brought against one or several individuals. With a conviction, the punitive sanction is normally a fine, in exceptional cases, imprisonment. Both civil servants and politicians can be affected by punitive sanctions.

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Last updated 2015-08-20