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The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority sharpens its methods

| Text: Berit Kvam, photo: Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority

How do you effectively monitor working environments? That was the key question when the Nordic working environment conference in Tampere recently discussed risk-based inspections. Which workplaces should be visited and how do you perform inspections and controls? The labour inspection authority’s role is to make sure businesses follow labour law. The methods are going to change, but how?

“When it comes to crimes in the labour market, we need to work in a completely different way. There is not much guidance here. We need to be tougher and take criminals out of the labour market,” says Ingrid Finboe Svendsen, Director General at the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority. 

Ingrid ForboeEfforts against crime in the labour market has got international attention because of the labour reform where the Labour Inspection Authority works in teams together with other authorities like the police, NAV, the tax office, treasury and customs.

“We work together nationwide in five different locations. We plan together, visit businesses together and share resources. This way we manage to catch criminal elements.”

It sounds great, but these are completely separate authorities with different goals and ways of operating. How is it working together?

“Many around Europe and in the Nordic region are asking just this, how do we do it. What we have in common in Norway is that all of the authorities saw that the labour market became an arena for criminal behaviour. So we started talking together and soon realised that if we wanted to get things done in an efficient manner, we needed to start working together. 

“Now we sit down together and talk about what we can see and what we do. When we are out inspecting or performing raids and target networks, we manage to shatter the networks together. This does not mean that this work is easy, but it means that we achieve more than we would have if we were doing this as separate entities.”

You want to create clear goals for the action you are taking. Is it important to measure this? Now we have managed five, next year we must take ten criminal employers?

“We don’t know whether putting numbers on this is the point. The point is that employers should see that it is possible to operate in a serious way in Norway. We will work to make it clear for them that this is possible, to make them see that there now is someone doing something to get rid of the cowboys in the labour market.” 

The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority spends 60 percent of its time on serious employers. Which methods do you use here?

“We work a lot together with the partners, together with the companies to see how you can prevent musculoskeletal injuries linked to working practices. Psychological problems also represent a major challenge, and we look at how we can work together using available knowledge.

“We need to move away from the thinking that when the labour inspection authority comes, we must make sure were fulfil rules and follow the law. It is more important to focus on why it is important to prevent injuries, why it is important to think about risks and why it is important to provide the correct training for people who have to operate dangerous equipment. I think it is important that those who are in charge of leading the work understand the point of all this. That’s when our inspections can really have a lasting impact.”

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