Information Dissemination Strategy on Occupational Health and Safety in Estonia

May 2002



 1. Basis for information dissemination on OH&S in Estonia  

2. Mission of information dissemination  

3. Levels of information 

4. Analysis of the information needs of the clients 

5. Ways of information dissemination in OH&S in Estonia

6. Developing and organizing the production of information 

7. Networking     

8. Resources 

9. Copyright   

10. Follow-up 

Annex 1    A questionnaire to ask feedback from clients (doc-file)

Annex 2    How to organize a press conference/a press release? (doc-file)

Annex 3    Short instructions on how to prepare a good web-page (doc-file)

Annex 4    Structure and time schedules for preparing the Estonian Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety (doc-file)

Annex 5    How to prepare a fact sheet on occupational health and safety?(doc-file)


This document has been prepared in order to analyse the information needs of the Estonian working-aged people, enterprises, occupational health and safety experts, decision-makers, policy-makers, and the public at large. The aim was to find a proper mix of information content and channels and to describe the divi­sion of work among the various actors in the field.

The first drafts were prepared in February–March 2001 in collaboration with the experts in the Occupational Health Center, Tallinn, the Estonian Ministry of So­cial Affairs, and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

In addition, the Draft No. 3 has been discussed in detail with the participants of the Est-Fin Twinning Project Network Meeting on 16 May 2001. The idea was to inform about the ideas and plans, and to invite comments, additions and other viewpoints from the network participants, as the network members will be in a key role in disseminating information further through their own channels.

The Draft No. 5 was again discussed in the Second Technical Inception Seminar on 25–26 October 2001 for additional comments and ideas.

The plan was to add chapters to this document during the Project in a stepwise manner so that by the time when the Est-Fin Twinning Project expires, the strat­egy will be completed and it then will be ready for implementation. This was deemed an appropriate procedure in order to allow learning-by-doing.

The drafting for various chapters has been as follows:

Chapter 1             Tiit Kaadu, Urmas Krass, Eva Tammaru, Suvi Lehtinen

Chapter 2             Suvi Lehtinen

Chapter 3             Suvi Lehtinen

Chapter 4             Eva Tammaru, Urmas Krass

Chapter 5             Eva Tammaru, Hubert Kahn, Pille Korpen, Ester Rünkla, Sigrid Tappo, Kristiina Kulha, Irja Laamanen, Suvi Lehtinen

Chapter 6             Eva Tammaru

Chapter 7             Eva Tammaru, Kari Kurppa, Suvi Lehtinen

Chapter 8             Eva Tammaru, Urmas Krass, Suvi Lehtinen

Chapter 9             Suvi Lehtinen

Chapter 10           Eva Tammaru, Suvi Lehtinen

It is our hope and also strong belief that this Information Dissemination Strategy document will provide a good basis for long-term, sustainable

development of information activities in occupational health and safety in the Occupational Health Center in Tallinn, as well as at the national level in


 The Contributors


1. Basis for information dissemination on OH&S in Estonia

Estonian National Programme on Occupational Health

 In order to make progress, we need an agenda. Each country should strive to reach a national consensus on the mission of occupational health and its services, on the aims, targets, quality, professional independence and ethical considera­tions.

However, occupational health services should also have the possibility to or­ganize – on the basis of the national programme – their own development pro­grammes.

The need for the Estonian National Programme (till 2003 and 2010) is based on:

The objectives of the Programme are to: 

To implement the policies and activities of the Programme, the appropriate sup­porting plans of activities (for three years) will be prepared. Funding of the rele­vant activities and coverage of costs will be designed through these plans.

There must be a strong and clear link between this Programme and the National Policy on Working Environment that is more comprehensive in nature.

National Policy on the Work Environment

           The objective of the National Policy on the Work Environment (2002–2010) is to develop a general framework for the improvement of working conditions and the work environment. Efforts are being made to attain this objective by super­vising and promoting the work environment activities, as well as by increasing and co-ordinating the co-operation among the authorities, institutions, industrial organizations and business associations and other relevant parties, for the devel­opment of legislation and other activities.

           The task of the National Policy on Work Environment is not only to eliminate or reduce hazards and detrimental factors in working conditions but also to contrib­ute to the positive development of those factors in working conditions which make possible the physical, mental and social well-being of the employee.

One of the crucial objectives of the National Policy on Working Environment is to bring about a work environment promoting safety and health. In order to be able to achieve this, it is necessary to know where the most severe deficiencies in the work environment are. 

The national policy is a guideline that expresses the aims and intentions of the Ministry of Social Affairs (i.e. the Government). It describes how to develop oc­cupational health and safety in Estonia. As such it reflects the socio-economic development and helps to create a competitive economic infrastructure.

 Such a framework contains general principles, which concern:

As a basis for preparing the National Policy on Working Environment (2002–2010), the previous National Policy on Working Environment, adopted by the Government in June 1998, was used. 

National Information Society Programme

Estonia has laid much emphasis on developing the society in the direction of an information society. The Principles of the Estonian Information Policy and its Implementation Plan have been approved by the Riigikogu on 13 May 1998. According to those documents, the State constitutionally guarantees the open­ness and free movement of information, implying that public organizations must without delay disseminate information about their operations as soon as practi­cal. The following aspects need to be followed:

In practice this means that Estonians are encouraged to use the electronic infor­mation media. This has already been facilitated by several measures. Education and training initiatives, media and advertising, as well as practical attainability of information technologies and sources have led to a situation where every fourth person in Estonia is able to use the computer, every fourth person is also a subscriber to a mobile telephone, every fifth person has used the Internet, and every seventh person is an active Internet user (Source: Odrats I. Estonia on the Way to Information Society). These figures offer a good basis for electronic in­formation dissemination in the field of occupational health and safety to the Oc­cupational Health Center.

Tasks and functions of the Occupational Health Center

On the basis of the legislation, the Occupational Health Center has the following tasks and functions:

The OHC has been organized into four Departments: Training, Information, Oc­cupational Medicine, and Seafarers' Health. A separate department for research is anticipated. Thus, there is in Estonia a national agency for information dis­semination in the field of occupational health and safety. 

2. Mission of information dissemination

The analysis of the information needs should be based on a situation analysis and assessment of the status of the work life, occurrence and trends of health and safety problems, ongoing activities and operations, resources available, scientific and professional information available for experts, academia, social partners, and enterprises. 

Information as a tool for decision-making

The first and the very basic question is to think about why information is needed. No decisions can be made on occupational health and safety without informa­tion. Information that is needed can be statistics, research data, advisory compe­tence on occupational health, or survey data coming from different problem ar­eas and various topical issues.  

Information as a tool for priority setting

The society faces many important problems simultaneously and there is a need to prioritize the activities, as the resources in all societies are scarce. Information provides a basis for prioritizing the most urgent and important goals among all the necessary ones in any activity. Often, a lot of information is gathered through various surveys, aiming at providing quickly a basis for priority setting. Priority setting is a key process in the strategic planning.

Workers' right to know

In the work environment and in the work life in general, the workers' right to know is one of the very basic rights. It is based on the understanding that in or­der to avoid risks workers need to know what the hazardous factors in their work environment are, what are the best work practices, and how they should protect themselves against the risks. This principle has been widely accepted both within the ILO and the EU.

Motivation to work ability and productivity

There is a great deal of evidence that good and ergonomic working conditions, support received from the supervisors and feedback on the work done, improve workers' well-being, and simultaneously productivity. The benefit-cost ratios ac­cording to the Finnish studies show 3–20-fold economic productivity increases. 

Information to the workplaces

It is important that enough information material on various risks and hazards of the work environment are available for the workplaces and workers as well. Close collaboration should be carried out also with Labour Inspectors as they have regular contacts to the workplaces. During their visits they can disseminate general information to the employers and workers as well.

The contents of Figure 1 need to be analysed and discussed in Estonia in order to fully agree upon the contents of information and the division of work among the various actors in the field of occupational health and safety. This analysis will facilitate the achievement of objectives in information dissemination.

 Figure 1. Process of information dissemination on occupational health and safety in Estonia

3. Levels of information

We need to define which are the most important target groups for OH&S infor­mation. This requires an analysis on which are the groups of persons in need of information about occupational health and safety, and good solutions and prac­tices at the workplace level. These can be OH&S experts, authorities, school teachers, students, workers, working-aged population, etc. It is important to de­fine the target groups because also the contents of the information need to be modified according to the needs of the information receivers.

Raising general awareness

Increasing awareness of the relationship between work and health among the whole working-aged population in Estonia is one of the urgent, but at the same time, long-term tasks of the new Occupational Health Center. For the implemen­tation of this task, several other actors in occupational health and safety are available in Estonia and several channels for providing information can be used. Media is a very important factor when planning the information dissemination for the general public and for raising general awareness. Fact sheets can be dis­seminated to workplaces, and various information campaigns organized e.g. at schools. One of the most effective ones is a regularly published newsletter where occupational health and safety issues are widely and extensively dealt with.

Provision of information to experts in OH&S

In the EU, it is of utmost importance that the information support of the occupa­tional health and safety experts is well organized in the country. The occupa­tional health and safety experts need a lot of information, part of which is trans­ferred through training but another part by information dissemination. Various channels are needed: good and informative www-pages that provide the infor­mation in an easy to access format, textbooks, guidelines, checklists, newsletters, etc. With thematic issues of the Estonian Newsletter it is possible to cover vari­ous aspects of a specific problem area in occupational health and safety, giving at the same time also checklists and guidance on how to work in a safe and healthful way. Special attention should be paid to this. The information services of the occupational health and safety experts can also be supported through li­brary services and various databases.

Workplace level information

The Framework Directive EEC/89/391 requires that information dissemination to the workers and the workplaces be organized in the EU Member States. Sev­eral media can and should be used. Through a regularly published newsletter, the occupational health and safety authorities, research institutions and training or­ganizations may inform about the recent advances in the field, and provide also information targeted to various groups and occupations. This will support the employers in the country whose main responsibility is to keep their workers and employees informed about the relationship between work and health, and the potential risks in the work environment. It is also possible to inform about good work practices in the newsletter. Fact sheets can be disseminated to workplaces, and a good start for cumulating information on these sheets has been taken place within the Est-Fin Twinning Project. The topics covered so far by the fact sheets are: Ergonomics, Work during pregnancy, Accident prevention, How to assess chemical hazards, Economic appraisal of occupational health and safety activi­ties, Pesticides, and Health and work ability of health care workers.

As Estonia has put a lot of emphasis on the development of Internet access, it can be expected that the workplaces use Internet actively. Therefore, also infor­mation materials and various other information sources should be developed on Internet. This is an additional challenge but there are already a lot of information available through Internet among the various organizations involved in the Na­tional Network on Occupational Health and Safety in Estonia. Future information is available at: ee/Telematic/index.htm ee/Telematic/estonian-network.htm ee/Telematic/eesti-tootervishoid.htm

4. Analysis of the information needs of the clients

A continuous analysis of information needs of both OH&S experts and the working people in general should be organized. The OHC has good possibilities to organize this kind of feedback surveys in connection of training events, through website, from the Newsletter readership, etc.

An analysis of the information needs and availability of electronic information sources has been made in May–June 2001 during training courses and seminars (Annex 1). Specialists from OHS, trainees to occupational health physicians and public health nurses, work environment specialists and specialists from meas­urement laboratories and health protection services were asked to express their opinions on the item.

Two collection methods of information were used:

1.personal interviews and discussions about information needs have been made during the training courses. Trainees to occupational health physicians and public health nurses were asked for their opinions on how to develop the information activities on occupational health and safety in Estonia.

Everybody recognized that the information sources have changed during the last period a lot and not all of them were known. The awareness about pos­sibilities was poor. The amount of electronic information is very large and varies in different sources. Therefore, it is relatively difficult to estimate the quality of information. Internet-based information dissemination has been recognized to be the best and the handiest tool for information processing.

The most common search engines are Google, AltaVista, Yahoo and Coper­nic. The library database Medline is in use in the Tartu University and OHS Medicover. Some of the trainees mentioned that they have neither a com­puter nor access to Internet.

2. A questionnaire was distributed during the training courses and the par­tici­pants filled them in themselves. A total of 47 specialists, among them 17 specialists from OHS, 6 inspectors from the Estonian labour inspection, 15 specialists from measurement laboratories, 6 lecturers from the Tartu Uni­versity and the Tallinn Technical University, and 3 specialists from health protection services answered to 5 questions of the questionnaire.

17 answered that they had not visited the Telematic website, 7 of them did not have access to Internet, 5 answered that information searching was too complicated for them.

The results to the question about the best form of information dissemina­tion were as follows:

41 preferred guidelines; 36 seminars; 18 small leaflets; 17 personal commu­nication; 16 fact sheets; 9 newsletters; 4 articles in newspapers; 1 TV.

The question about the newsletter Eesti Töötervishoid got the following an­swers:

-       to define more exactly the target groups of readers

-       to define the goals and aim of publishing

-       to edit the material in certain columns and continuous subjects

-       to make the issues available for everybody who has an interest in the Newsletter.

Further activities in information dissemination issues have to be based on the evaluation of results of these questionnaires. The practical needs of OH services and other institutions should also be surveyed in order to get a comprehensive picture about the prevailing information needs. The relevant national programmes also provide a basis for developing information activi­ties and services.

5. Ways of information dissemination on OH&S in Estonia

Two-way communication with the media

Through TV, radio and newspapers large population groups can be reached at one time. Specialized professional journals offer information to smaller profes­sional groups, e.g. construction specialists, nurses, medical doctors, etc. Often they do not have a special interest in occupational health and safety.

The communication with media is carried out together with the Ministry of So­cial Affairs (Mr. Tiit Kaadu, director of the work environment department and Ms. Sigrid Tappo, press relations officer). Gradually when the information ac­tivities of OHC are more stable and permanently established, the responsibility of the media contacts can be moved to the OHC.

The media can be dealt with in several ways:

1)    press conferences can be used when there are “big news” to tell: e.g. new re­search results, an important publication has come out or there is an impor­tant meeting or conference, e.g. Occupational Health Day. A suitable num­ber of press conferences could be 1–3 /year during the first years.

2)    press releases can be used when there are news to tell: e.g. new research re­sults, new publication, new project, new appointments or a conference. Press releases demand less resources than organizing a press conference, but can be as effective. A press release is also used always in connection with a press conference. A suitable number of press releases could be 5–10/year.

3)    regular meetings with the media are one way of keeping the media aware of what is happening in the field of OH&S and in the OHC. During these meeting current issues and future projects can be presented, new contacts with journalists can be established and common interests can be discussed. A suitable number of press meetings could be one every other year.

4)    providing articles and ideas for media: OH&S experts can write themselves articles and offer them to the newspapers.

A flow chart describing the communication with media is attached as Annex 2.

Information on www

Information can easily be retrieved on www, but it is necessary to think about the selection of the most feasible form of each information content. An analysis of the use of Internet among the occupational health and safety experts and the workplaces needs to be done. This will facilitate to get an understanding on how widely and intensively Internet is used in order to know how effective it will be as a channel of information dissemination among the clients of the OHC and other actors in the field of occupational health and safety in Estonia. A rough plan for the preparation of www-pages has been described in Annex 3.


The aim of the campaigns should be to draw the public’s attention to most topi­cal issues of occupational health and safety, and also to the institutions working in this field. Campaigns are time-bound intensive information dissemination projects that aim at creating as wide as possible general awareness of a specific topic. It can be anticipated that some campaigns on occupational health and safety could be arranged at schools for pupils to become aware of the relation­ship between work and health.

Information days

Information days have proved to be very useful. Specialists go to different parts of the country, get acquainted with the OH&S situation in enterprises, have meetings with employers and employees, advise in solving complicated prob­lems and answer to their questions. For example, an information day was held in Kohtla-Järve hospital, where the OH&S experts met with local authorities and OH physicians, discussed the local problems and tasks. Personal contacts and discussions face to face are effective forms of communication of information as they provide the possibility for checking whether the information has been un­derstood.

The 3rd Occupational Health Day on 14 September 2001 was organised in Tallinn, where many OH&S specialists attended. Numerous presentations were made and several exhibitions were organized. This event has become a regular meeting arranged once a year.

Leaflets, guidelines, brochures

Various leaflets and brochures need to be prepared on various specific topics. The distribution of these should be made as wide as possible, preferably to all workplaces in Estonia. The distribution channels need to be mapped.

Estonian Newsletter

The Estonian Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety has been published already for 8 years. From 2002 on, four issues of the Newsletter will be pub­lished annually. Now that the readership has been stabilized, it should be consid­ered whether the selection of a theme for each issue during the year would im­prove the readability and attractiveness of the Newsletter among the readers. The print of the Newsletter, 1,000 copies, allows a relatively wide distribution of the information to authorities, expert communities, and workplaces. An increase in the number of the print does not increase costs too much. The Estonian News­letter is also available on Internet at (is­sues 1997–2000), and at

The flow chart describing the editing and publishing process of a newsletter is attached as Annex 4.

In 2002 the Estonian Newsletter will be published 4 times a year: 15 March, 15 June, 15 September, 15 December. It would be very useful to have a topic for each issue, so that at least 3 articles are dedicated to it.

The strategy for the Newsletter is being worked out together with the members of the Editorial Board and its final version will be discussed in the meeting of the Editorial Board in April 2002. It is very important to enlarge and continue co-operation with as many authors as possible from all the institutions working in the field of OH&S.

Instructions for authors have been compiled and they are sent to all the authors who have agreed to contribute to the Newsletter. Feedback from the readers is another important issue, it may be organized in the form of a questionnaire (or better through the Internet).

 Fact sheets

One-page fact sheets are prepared on specific topics to be distributed widely both to the workplaces but also to the media, so that they can further inform the general public about certain urgent topics in occupational health and safety. The topics of the fact sheets deal with ergonomics, work during pregnancy, accident prevention, etc. A more detailed plan for the selection of the most urgent topics and the preparation of fact sheets needs to be made. The procedure for preparing a fact sheet is described in Annex 5.


Library offers different kinds of services, which are based on the library collec­tion and on international and Estonian databases and other electronic materials. The basis of the services is established by accumulating to the library all the in­formation available in Estonia and carefully evaluated selection of foreign mate­rials, and by building a database to manage the information available. This data­base and the other databases and services integrated to them make access to in­formation easy and convenient.

As much as possible of the OHS materials will be acquired and made available in an electronic form, also printed books and journals are acquired. The archives of journals in the Internet are developing and the number of electronic journals is growing.

All the information sources and new types of databases offer a good basis for the information services, Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) and ret­rospective search of references and original articles. The library also offers to the customers in Estonia access to Internet and training on the information re­trieval and on the use of electronic information sources.

The present tasks of the Library are:

1.  Compiling an electronic database of all the printed materials we have at our disposal

2.  Continuous updating of this database

3.  Making this database electronically available to our clients.

6. Developing and organizing the production of information

Developing and organizing of information is very closely connected with the in­stitutional strengthening of the OHC Information Department. The staff’s raising of qualification is the key factor in management of information dissemination activities.

Training days for electronic information searching were organised once in the FIOH Information Service Centre and twice in the project site in Tallinn. Information specialist Keijo Halonen trained Eva Tammaru to use database collections on Internet.

The following items have been included: 1) learning the use of individual bib­liographic databases of the International Labour Organisation, U.K. Health and Safety Executive, U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine etc. 2) the strategy of electronic database searching, 3) searching with Boolean logic and proximity operators 4) database searching skills were developed and exercising of practical search carried out.

7. Networking

The present-day information technologies provide a huge opportunity for various organizations working in the same field to utilize their information sources. This can take place on a mutual basis to the extent that the organizations themselves deem appropriate. In a peer-to-peer networking all the member organizations themselves decide what kind of information they put on their webpages, thus allowing their partners to utilize that information in the best possible way. These new networking opportunities can at their best lead to more effective use of in­formation sources and to the improvement of workers' health in the country.

In addition to establishing the national and local networks in Estonia (see and http://www.tervishoid. ee), it is also important to join the international networks. It seems appropriate that the focal point for the Bilbao Agency Network is the Ministry of Social Af­fairs, whereas the proper counterpart in the Baltic Sea Network on Occupational Health and Safety might well be the Occupational Health Center. This remains to be agreed upon.

8. Resources


The sufficient number of competent experts needs to be ensured. One expert on information dissemination in general, one on editing a newsletter and other pub­lications, and one on www issues are needed in the long term. These together will also organize the library and information services of the OHC. This core staff will guarantee that the most basic and central elements of occupational health and safety information will be developed in a competent manner.


A well-equipped work station is needed for the editing of the Newsletter and other publications with a PageMaker Software. Other work stations are needed for the preparation of other information materials. Www-pages are prepared with an appropriate software, e.g. FrontPage or similar.


The work rooms are needed for each staff member of the Information Depart­ment. This is necessary because of the specific equipment needs of the staff. In addition, special rooms are needed for the Library. Shelves and PCs were pur­chased for the Library from the Phare investment budget. They need to be taken effectively into use. The possibility of collaboration with the EKMI li­brary in this issue needs to be clarified.


The competence of the core staff needs to be updated continuously. The neces­sary PageMaker and www editing training were provided within the framework of the Est-Fin Twinning Project. The information branch develops and changes rapidly. Therefore, a continuous training and updating of information and skills is needed.

Collaboration with other organizations

The networking with other organizations will add to the resources of the In­formation Department of the OHC. Special attention should be paid to smooth collaboration with the information units of the Ministry of Social affairs, La­bour Inspection, trade unions and employers' organizations, and universities.

9. Copyright

In all publishing, the question of copyright is of utmost importance. In the publishing of journals and various other publications it is important to ensure that the persons submitting articles have a copyright to their articles. This needs to be confirmed in writing. The Editors of any publication need to make sure that the copyrights of all the material to be included in the publication, whether a book or a journal or a newsletter, are available. The publisher usu­ally asks for the copyrights to himself in order to be able to handle the publica­tion properly. The materials to be published on the net follow the similar lines of copyrights as are used when publishing printed materials. It is important to make sure that you have the copyright before you put any material on the net. This applies both for text and for photos. For additional information, see e.g., which is the web-site of the US Library of Con­gress. Additional information is also available from tekijanoikeus/index.htm and

10. Follow-up

From the viewpoint of planning of future activities, it is important and neces­sary to follow up the information activities. Also this Strategy Document needs evaluation and follow-up in two–three years' time.

The feedback on the future needs for occupational health and safety informa­tion can be obtained through direct questionnaire surveys, asking feedback from the readership of the Estonian Newsletter, interviewing participants of the training courses, making a client survey of the OHC, including a questionnaire form on the webpage of the OHC, and in several other ways as well. This feed­back is necessary in order to be able to develop and redirect the information activities of the OHC.

One example of a questionnaire form is attached as Annex 1.