Systematic work environment management at SLU

Last changed: 01 April 2021

Systematic work environment management is an umbrella term for the measures employers need to take to ensure a satisfactory work environment and prevent occupational illness and workplace accidents.

How does SLU need to approach systematic work environment management?

Systematic work environment management must be an integral part of the university’s day-to-day operations and tasks needed to address all significant physical, psychological and social conditions. Employers have the primary responsibility for work environment management, but collaboration with employees, students and safety representatives is also required.

For work environment management to be successful, organisation and planning are essential and procedures need to be established. Each department/equivalent should have their own procedures in place that stipulate when and how work environment management must take place and who needs to participate.

There must be a clear division of responsibilities and a meeting structure that enables questions to be raised and followed up on. A number of points and templates are available below to help you.

Regulations

SLU’s organisations are governed by laws, ordinances and other provisions. You can find a selection of them here. Additional regulations will apply for each organisation, so find out which work environment requirements are in force for your workplace. This information can be found in the Work Environment Act, Work Environment Ordinance and provisions on the Swedish Work Environment Authority website. Managers and staff should have access to or knowledge of the relevant acts, ordinances and provisions that are available online.

Division of tasks and responsibility

Overall responsibility for work environment

As head of an authority, the Vice-Chancellor has the overall responsibility for ensuring that the work environment meets the requirements of current legislation. The Vice-Chancellor´s responsibility can not be distributed further, but the Vice-Chancellor can distribute tasks linked to the work environment responsibility to managers, supervisors or other employees.

Responsibility for the distribution of tasks

The Vice-chancellor has delegated work environment tasks to the deans, chief operating officer, head of the University Animal Hospital and library director. These managers may in turn delegate work environment tasks to heads of department and unit managers. They can and should in turn distribute work environment tasks to heads of department and unit managers. The division of tasks entails an operational responsibility for the person who is assigned a task. Work environment responsibility refers to an obligation to be active and take measures to eliminate or reduce risks of ill health and accidents at work.

In all task distribution, it is important that the scope of the distributed tasks is adapted to the role and conditions of the recipient to perform these tasks. The person who is assigned tasks in the work environment work, regardless of whether it is a manager or an individual employee, must have knowledge, authorithy and other conditions to solve their tasks. The person who distributes the tasks is always responsible for following up distributed tasks and ensuring that the recipient has the conditions to perform the tasks. If you as a manager distribute tasks to an individual employee (for example, to be responsible for a chemical storehouse), these tasks are included in the employee's work tasks while the work environment responsibility remains with you as a manager.

At larger departments and units, the head of department and unit manager can distribute work environment tasks to people who have the resources, opportunity and competence to take measures and improve the work environment within their area. The division of tasks must be in writing.

Period of validity

The division of tasks applies until further notice, however, no later than the date on which the recipient of the data holds the current assignment/employment and has the conditions to perform the tasks. If one of the parties leaves their assignment/employment, the division of tasks must be updated.

Implementation of task distribution

Anyone who has distributed tasks to someone else needs to go through what the division of tasks means. Based on the current template for task distribution. The following should be addressed: 

  1. What tasks are distributed and what these entail.
  2. What authorithy the recipient has to make decisions regarding distributed tasks.
  3. What resources the recipient has for carrying out tasks (eg budget, staff, equipment and time).
  4. What knowledge and skills does the recipient have about distributed tasks.
  5. Information on how the recipient should act if the conditions for solving a task are lacking.
  6. Information on where the university's rules, routines and support materials are available.
  7. How follow-up of the division of tasks is to take place and what results are expected to be fed back.

Documentation

The current template for the distribution of tasks must be prepared and filled in digitally with current tasks before they are signed. In the current template, the tasks that are distributed are marked. If you need to add information or need clarification about distributed information, use the note field in the template. If necessary, local appendices to the task allocation document may be produced to clarify and specify distributed tasks. The parties each sign and retain the original of the document. (only in Swedish)

Follow-up of task distribution

Follow-up between task distributors and recipients must take place continuously, at least once a year. This can happen, for example, at the annual development interview.

Return of task

If the person who has received tasks is unable to solve a specific task due to a lack of conditions, he or she must notify the task distributor as soon as possible. The task distributor must initiate a dialogue about the reason why the task in question cannot be performed and plan together with the recipient how the conditions can be improved.

If the recipient nevertheless does not have the conditions to handle the information, the information can be returned to the task distributor. If the conditions for the distribution of tasks change, the task can be reassigned. Template for returning tasks can be found under the heading Documentation.

Investigation/mapping

Investigation/mapping

Regular work environment reviews must be conducted in order to identify any potential risks, and prevent employees from being injured, falling ill or otherwise suffering. Our work environment is rich in both physical and psychosocial factors, meaning different types of investigation will be necessary over time. Investigation methods may involve anything from health and safety inspections and staff surveys to discussions during staff meetings where work environment matters are on the agenda.

Below you will find a list of the investigations and reviews that must/should be conducted. There is also information about who is responsible for implementation and when this should be conducted to ensure that the work is systematic. The head of department/manager must ensure that investigations/mapping are conducted at the department/equivalent.

Mapping that must be conducted at departments and units.

Mapping 

When 

Dept. Unit 

Responsible

Health and safety inspection 

Annually  

Department/unit 

Head of department/unit

Staff development review 

Annually 

Department/unit 

Head of department/unit

Local coordination group 

4 times/year 

Department/unit 

Head of department/unit


Additional mapping might be necessary depending on the activities run at the department/unit. For example, statutory noise measuring and medical check-ups, staff surveys, follow-up on sick leave and occupational injury etc.

Take measures for any work environment risks that were identified during the investigation. Always address the most serious risks first. Try to remove the source of the risk; not all risks can be avoided and will therefore need to be approached differently. Ensure that staff are given instructions, support or personal protective equipment if necessary. Decide who is responsible for making sure that the measures are taken and how they are to be followed up.

Risks that cannot or will not be addressed immediately must be recorded in a written action plan.

Risk assessment and action plan

Risk assessment

Often, risk assessments can be conducted as part of everyday evaluations, staff development reviews, surveys or health and safety inspections. 

The law states that specific risk assessments must take place where there are additional risks, such as pregnancy, radiation, at departments where chemicals are used, fire or explosion risks, work with machinery etc.

Risk assessments must be conducted before new trials, laboratory work etc. The Division of Facility Management can provide support with risk assessments.

In the event of organisational changes, the consequences to the work environment and any potential risks as a result of the change must be documented. These may, for example, include reorganisation, relocation and reduction of employees.

The employer is also responsible for distance workers and will need to adapt the traditional workplace health and safety inspections accordingly.  

Action plan

Create a written action plan each year that includes concrete work environment measures for your department/unit. Base the measures on the work environment issues identified and the work environment targets established in your workplace. The action plan also needs to include the risks that were identified in staff surveys and risk assessments that could not be rectified immediately.

Action plans must always be in writing and contain measures that need to be taken, their deadline for implementation and who must ensure they are carried out. The action plan must be an active document that is revised and followed up.

Inspection/Follow-up

The measures included in the action plan must be monitored regularly. Each year, there must be a follow-up of the department/unit’s procedures for systematic work environment management. The follow-up can be included in the local coordination group’s tasks.

Use the checklist for the follow-up and then make the necessary improvements.

Each year, the university coordination organisation will perform random checks to follow up on work environment management.

Written documentation

Written documentation is essential for the division of tasks, work environment procedures, action plans, risk assessments and follow-ups. It aids work environment management for both employees and employers. The documentation always needs to be adapted to the organisation and activities and must be clear and easy to understand. 

8 systematic work environment management activities

  1. Provide all staff with basic work environment knowledge and how they can participate and influence.

  2. Ensure that health and safety representatives undergo work environment training, and refresh their knowledge regularly.

  3. Discuss the work environment with staff and line managers.

  4. Talk to your colleagues about the situation in your workplace.

  5. Include students and coordination groups. 

  6. Make the work environment a fixed point on the agenda for workplace or staff meetings.

  7. Create a close dialogue between the manager, health and safety representative, students, coordination group about the organisation.

  8. Create an annual cycle for work environment management. This helps maintain momentum and acts as a reminder.

Remember that work environment management applies to work that takes place outside of the fixed workplace – construction, transport or distance work, for example.

Roles in systematic work environment management

Role of managers and employers

The employer has the primary responsibility for the work environment and must make sure that employees are not at risk of accident or illness. All employers must conduct systematic work environment management. Managers must be familiar with the Work Environment Act and other work environment regulations that apply for their organisation. It is common for managers to be delegated specific tasks, such as initiating health and safety inspections and administrative duties for other elements of systematic work environment management. 

Role of staff 

Each employee is personally responsible for health and safety in their day-to-day work. Therefore, everyone is entitled to information and knowledge about their work environment.

Employees must also participate in work environment management. Everyone must follow the instructions provided, carry out their work environment management tasks and use personal protective equipment when necessary. Employees must also stay alert to shortcomings and risks in their organisation and inform their employer about them. Incidents must also be reported.

Role of students

For the most part, the Work Environment Act also applies to adults in education; students are entitled to a good work environment – both physical and psychosocial. Therefore, systematic work environment management also includes students.

University students can appoint a student health and safety representative. These representatives are full members of SLU’s central work environment committee (SLU-AK) and have the same rights and responsibilities as other members. However, the regulations on organisational and social work environment do not apply for students, as these are formulated for staff with employment conditions.

Role of the health and safety representative 

The health and safety representative must be able to participate in the planning and implementation of working environment management tasks such as health and safety inspections. They must also be able to participate in the formulation of action plans.

The health and safety representative acts on behalf of employees and monitors/participates in the work to ensure that employers fulfil the systematic work environment management requirements. Generally, this is achieved by establishing a local coordination group with a health and safety representative at the department. 

Role of the local coordination group 

The local coordination group acts as a consultation group for the head of department/equivalent, and a discussion partner for work environment matters.
The coordination group can support systematic work environment management by initiating and following up on questions. By establishing such a group and conducting regular meetings, we aim to meet the statutory requirements for collaboration between staff, health and safety representatives and the employer.

Examples of matters that can be addressed in the local coordination groups:

  • Do both the physical and psychosocial work environments contribute to the organisational targets being met?
  • Are any training, support or staff-social measures needed to stimulate staff participation in attaining the set targets?
  • Do the premises and other equipment meet the organisation’s needs and work environment requirements? Initiate health and safety inspections
  • Participation in the formulation of the action plan, follow-up on mapping and risk assessments.

Examples of agenda for a local coordination group annual meeting that supports systematic work environment management are available here.

Role of the occupational health services 

The occupational health service is an expert resource that can be included in investigations and risk assessments, and suggest measures and follow up on their implementation. They can also provide work environment training for staff.

Systematic work environment management when working from abroad

Working from abroad

Even if an employee is working abroad, the employer is still responsible for working systematically with the work environment.

The Swedish Work Environment Act applies to all work conducted in Sweden. However, in principle the Swedish Work Environment Act cannot be applied beyond Sweden’s borders. Nevertheless, an employer’s duty of instruction and risk assessment as per the Act should still be used when an employee is sent abroad to work. Note that the work environment legislation (if applicable) and criminal law of the host country must always be observed.

In certain cases, foreign legislation may be stricter than its Swedish equivalent regarding infringements from employers and employees. Despite the Work Environment Act being limited to within Sweden’s borders, employers must still conduct systematic work environment management and minimise risks to and ill health of employees during their period abroad. The responsibility for rehabilitation is unchanged.

Systematic work environment management when working from home

Working from home

As a manager, you are responsible for the work environment even when an employee works from home, for example due to the risk of spreading an infection. Here you will find information about what to think about and do when talking to an employee who works from home.

Checklist before an employee starts working from home

  • Are the employee’s duties suitable for distance work? Consider which material must be brought home – our workplace handles public documents.
  • Which duties cannot be conducted at a distance?
  • Discuss the home work environment with the employee in question. What does the social environment look like? Does the employee live alone? Do they have people around? Is the home in question a social risk environment in any way?
  • Assess whether the employee can arrange a proper home workplace or if there is a risk of illness after a while. Managers are also responsible for the home work environment.
  • Is the employee familiar enough with computers to work from home? Do they need further web-based tool training in the form of online courses? 
  • What are the technical conditions? Is there an internet connection, and does the employee have access to documents through the VPN client? 
  • Remind employees of the importance of taking breaks and doing ergonomic exercises in order to reduce the risk of strain injuries. It can be physically or psychologically strenuous to work from home for a longer period, and there must be procedures to ensure that it works in the long-term.
  • Discuss availability with the employee. What is the best way to reach them (email, Teams, phone, etc.) and what are their working hours?
  • Agree on how to stay in touch and what form follow-up between manager and employee will take in the future.
  • It is good to talk to an employee after they have worked from home for a few days. Ask them how things are going, if they need something, etc.

Inform them of the following:

  • Distance working hours are regulated in the same way as when working in the ordinary workplace. The same working conditions apply, and any overtime/additional hours must be approved by the manager/head of department beforehand. It is important that everyone takes responsibility for maintaining personal/work life balance.
  • If an accident occurs when working from home, workplace accident insurance may apply in accordance with the Compensation for Personal Injury Agreement (PSA). The condition is that the accident is directly connected to the conducted duties, and all cases need to be assessed based on the conditions at the time. See AFA's website for more information about insurance when working from home. See AFA:s film about insurance when working from home. 
  • Information security must be the same as in the regular workplace – information must be protected and kept away from unauthorised persons. Public access and secrecy rules also apply when working from home. The same public document quality and security conditions apply when working from home as in the regular workplace. All public documents, both submitted and developed, must be registered and available to the public in accordance with regular procedures.
  • It is important to have regular reconciliations with the employees to ensure that the work situation at home is good. See Questions to ask your employee regarding the work environment at home work.
  • See a film about ergonomics when working from home.

Annual work environment management cycle

Below you will find a diagram of suggestions for annual work environment management for departments/equivalent.

yearweel.bild

Page editor: PAVD-WEBB@slu.se