OSH legislative framework

Denmark first regulated occupational safety and health in 1873, establishing a factory inspectorate to supervise protection of children and young people in factories and workshops, and later introducing rules on preventive technical measures. [1] This inspectorate was the predecessor of the the current labour inspectorate, The Danish Working Environment Authority (Arbejdstilsynet). In 1913, Denmark passed its first Factory Act, with the aim of preventing accidents and diseases. This legislation was extended to protect all workers in the Worker Protection Act in 1954. [1] In 1975, the working environment rules were consolidated into a single Act, the Danish Working Environment Act, which brought a change from prescriptive rules to assessing workplace hazards and then selecting appropriate measures. The Act broadened the concept of safety and health to take in all factors that cause accidents and ill-health, and to consider prevention. [1]

The Working Environment Act was amended in 1997, making written workplace assessments mandatory for companies. Furthermore, all companies with more than 5 employees are obliged to put in place formal OSH structures, and a 37-hour course for all OSH-personnel became compulsory. In addition, health surveillance was made obligatory. [2] Another major change came in the form of the Working Environment Reform in 2004 [3]. The Danish Working Environment Authority was tasked with visiting and screening every company in the seven-year period up to 2011, and then every three years thereafter. [4] According to this revised act, companies are obliged to use consultants when complex working environment problems that are difficult to solve are identified. The so called ‘smiley’ regulation introduced traffic light coloured smileys for categorizing companies according to the outcome of the Working Environment Authority’s screening visits.

In 2012, as a consequence of the new strategy for working environment efforts up to 2020, the screenings were changed into risk based inspections.[5] The companies which are considered to have the most serious health and safety issues are subject to more inspections than was the case in the former strategy period. All companies with two full time employees or more are inspected at least one time during the strategy period. This applies only half of the small companies with between one and two full time employees, and companies with less than one full time employee are not visited.

The outcome of these visits is presented for every Danish enterprise on the start page of the Danish Working Environment Authority website (for more details, see the ‘Types of inspections’ box on the next page). Social partners can include OSH activities in their agreements and OSH education and training are more strictly regulated for certain sectors, such as construction. In addition, the absence rate must now be incorporated in a company’s risk assessment.

The next revision of the Working Environment Act came into force in January 2012. [6] The main areas of the legislation are performance of the work, the design of the workplace, technical equipment, substances and materials, rest periods, and young people under the age of 18.

The Working Environment Act emphasises that individual workplace design should prevent employees being forced to leave the labour market due to burnout and stress. Factors which can lead to physical or mental health risks – both long and short term - must be remedied, and socio-economic and technological developments affecting working conditions should be taken into account.

The latest revision of the Working Environment Act came into force in 2020 as a consequence of a new political agreement. Central elements are: 1) Setting of national goals for the working environment on sector level in cooperation with social partners, 2) Focused selection of companies for inspection and elimination of risk based inspections, 3) Clear rules and regulations, 4) Sharpened fines for serious violations of the Labour Act, 5) Better knowledge about development of the working environment and impact of the intervention, including access to new data from other public authorities, 6) Clear division of roles in the dissemination efforts, 7) Possibility of agreements with companies on improvement of the working environment, 8) Fees for enhanced inspections, 9) Advisory orders are replaced by competence orders and 10) Increase of the basic fine.

OSH Strategies

Content and objectives

Today, Denmark looks back on 20 years of experience with its national OSH strategies. The first ten-year strategy was for the period 1996-2005, and a second five-year strategy ended in 2010. The next strategy covered the period of 2010 to 2020[7], and was based on the evaluation of past strategies and a report on the future working environment up to 2020[8].

The first strategy (1996-2005) was entitled ‘Clean Working Environment 2005’ (Handlingsprogram for et rent arbejdsmiljø år 2005)[9]. The action programme provided the general framework for OSH work up to the year 2005. Seven priority areas were defined, including goals and defined instruments and activities:

  1. Fatal accidents,
  2. Occupational exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, organic solvents and heavy metals,
  3. Occupational injuries to children and young people,
  4. Heavy lifting and monotonous repetitive work,
  5. Psychosocial risk factors,
  6. Poor indoor climate,
  7. Noisy work and noise pollution.

Starting in 2005, the second strategy prioritized general working environment efforts in Denmark up to the end of 2010’ [10]. The experience and lessons learned from the first strategy were taken into account. As a result, the seven priorities were reduced to four, and these were connected to quantitative targets over the period 2005-2010. The priority areas and the main targets for reduction were:

  • Industrial accidents - target: minus 20%
  • Psychological disorders from working environment: - target: minus 10%; measured by absenteeism due to sickness
  • Noise - target: noise causing hearing damage: minus 15% Nuisance noise: minus 10%
  • Musculoskeletal disorders - reduction target: minus 10%; measured by absenteeism due to sickness[11][12]

The successes and failures of the strategy activities of this period were thoroughly evaluated[8][13][14][15] [16].

The 2020strategy for 2010 to 2020 [17] continued the work of the former strategies, and did set the following three priorities for the 2020 working environment:

  • The number of serious accidents at work is to be reduced by 25%
  • The number of employees who are psychologically overloaded is to be reduced by 20%
  • The number of employees who experience musculoskeletal disorders is to be reduced by 20%

The 2020 strategy did also include 19 initiatives - The main initiative was the introduction of risk based inspections. This ment that companies considered to have the most serious health and safety issues should be subject to more inspections than in the former period. All companies with two full time employees or more were inspected at least once during the strategy period. Approximately half of the companies with one to two full time employees were selected randomly for inspections. The risk-based inspection was based on an index model. The index model contained a number of parameters which were used to identify companies most likely to have working environment problems. Companies were given points for each of the parameters. Companies with the highest number of points in total would be selected for inspection.

The current strategy from 2019, based on an agreement between the Danish government, Denmarks’s Liberal Party, the Danish People’s Party and the Conservative People’s Party, is called "New and improved occupational safety and health initiatives and orderly labour-market conditions".

The agreement replaces the previous political agreement on occupational safety and health :

  • Agreement on stronger health and safety initiatives –everyone is entiteled to a safe and healthy working environment(2015)
  • Agreement on a new strategy for health and safety initiatives up to 2020(2011)

Most of the initiatives in the agreements from 2011 and 2015 have been implemented in legislation, in Working Environment Authority (WEA) practice, or have been completed. Following occupational safety and health political agreements  remain in force in the new agreement:

  • Agreement on asbestos recommendation(2018)
  • Agreement on OSH for firefighters(2018)
  • Agreement on enhanced smiley scheme(2017)
  • Agreement on enhanced working environment certification(2016)

The agreement is based on recommendations submitted in September 2018 from an Expert Committee.

  • Higher priority for orderly conditions on the labour market
  • More sector-oriented inspection campaigns, with focus on burnout and fatigue
  • New tools for psychological working environment initiatives
  • Clear regulations on occupational safety and health
  • Regulations for children and young people
  • More focus on chemical

The parties agreed that (see table below):

Safety and health goals to be closer to workplaces (Bringing OSH objectives into the workplaces)
1.     Common national OSH goals should be agreed between the government and the social partners The government and the social partners should agree on priorities for efforts, e.g. specific focus areas, problems or sectors. The parties will prioritize relevant goals within e.g. chemical safety at work. The parties of the agreement will annually discuss the status of the national goals, including progress on meeting specific goals. 
2.     Specific targets at sector level In dialogue with the Sector Working Environment Committees (BFAs), the social partners of the Working Environment Council will implement the common national OSH objectives at sector level.
3.     Realisation of OSH goals at workplace level All stakeholders involved in OSH should ensure that workplaces can achieve good results.  Enterprises should be informed where to get support and information regarding OSH issues. The statutory risk assessment will be set up as digital solution, available for enterprises to use. A temporary committee will be set up, consisting of the social partners, experts and the Danish Ministry of Employment, to discuss the potential for an improved OSH system, including whether the safety and health training can be improved, and whether the risk assessment can be a more active tool in occupational safety and health at work.
Efforts by the WEA to be targeted and improved - Focusing the activities of the WEA at high-risk enterprises.
4.     Target selection of workplaces for inspection Developing an improved risk model for a more precise selection of enterprises for workplace inspections.
5.     Improvement notices can be supplemented with dialogue and guidance Follow-up infringement should be supported by dialogue and guidance to ensure that OSH problems are solved, but to motivate enterprises to ensure health and safe workplaces.
6.     Option for agreements to improve occupational safety and health Implementation of an ‘agreement process’ with the WEA to improve occupational safety and health in enterprises. This will motivate enterprises to deal with OSH at the workplace by themselves, and so to disseminate knowledge about safety and health issues and solutions to other relevant areas in their organization.
7.     Consultancy contract adjusted so that it takes into account the different needs of the workplace A consultancy contract will be changed to a competence contract that takes more account of the different needs of workplaces for solutions.
8.     More sector-oriented inspection with focus on burnout and fatigue More sector-oriented inspection campaigns targeted at the OSH issues of specific individual sectors with a focus on burnout problems due to physical and psychological reasons.
9.     Coordinated efforts The WEA will coordinate the work of the social partners and Sector Working Environment Committees (BFAs), so that stakeholders in the OSH field act in the same direction and thus achieve better results.
10.  Communication and digital support The WEA will have to communicate more proactively, targeted and differentiated in relation to the companies’ specific needs. Digital solutions have to be developed to support companies in OSH issues.
New tools to support efforts within the psychological working environment
11.  Executive order on the psychological working environment The executive order will clarify the current legal position, and it will be clearer for employers, managers and workers that the WEA will react on problems, such as heavy workload, time pressure, unclear demands, high emotional demands and work-related violence.
12.  Training in the psychological working environment The social partners and the Ministry of Employment will gather and disseminate experience on training for managers and employee representatives to prevent and deal with the psychological working environment, e.g. experience from the voluntary management-training program for government managers that was agreed as part of the collective agreement negotiations in the government area.
Safety and health regulations should be easier to understand
13.  Clear regulations on occupational safety and health Old regulations and guidelines on occupational safety and health have to be reviewed and consolidated so the regulations are more comprehensible and make more sense. This work will be discussed regularly between the parties.
14.  Orderly regulations for children and young people The regulations for young workers have to be reviewed to see whether the regulations can be more clear and simple. This will ensure compliance with the regulation, and that unnecessary and unclear regulations are not a barrier for young people between 13 and 15 years finding out about the labour market, being trained in professional practice and being motivated to seek training/education and employment. 
15.  Survey of inspections at ports The regulations for occupational safety and health inspections on ships in ports will be analyzed to identify whether the regulations in this area should be adjusted.
16.  Consolidated executive order on systematic safety and health work The regulations on formal safety and health requirements stated in the Executive Order on cooperation on safety and health, and the Executive Order on the performance of work are to be consolidated into one executive order to make the regulations clearer.
17.  Easier access to occupational safety and health regulations A new form of OSH legislation must be developed by the Danish Labour Inspection Authority that which makes it easier for employers, managers, employees and occupational safety representatives to find relevant rules and guidance material, based on the different needs of companies.
There are to be tougher sanctions for serious violations of the law
18.  Payment for inspections in the event of repeated infringements putting employees at serious risk Employers must pay a fixed amount, if a follow-up inspection again identify serious infringements of the Working Environment Act within two years
19.  Higher fines for serious infringements of the Working Environment Act Fines will be increased for serious infringements of the Working Environment Act leading to personal injury or death as well as for repeated serious infringements of the Working Environment Act.
Better cohesion between research and initiatives should be achieved
20.  National occupational safety and health research strategy In collaboration with research communities and the social partners, the Ministry of Employment will prepare a national strategy for occupational safety and health research. 
21.  Stronger focus on chemicals Knowledge about chemical safety at work, including knowledge about limit values, will be closely linked to work by the WEA. From 2020 to 2022  DKK 10.0 million will be re-prioritized annually from the Danish Working Environment Research Fund for  research activities in the field of dangerous substances and limit values for carcinogenic substances.
22.  Improved knowledge about developments in safety and health at work and the impact of initiatives Occupational safety and health monitoring will be linked closer to the inspection campaign and will be transferred from the National Research Centre for the Working Environment to the WEA.
23.  Clear segregation of roles in communication activities Knowledge about occupational safety and health will be concentrated in one place. In the future, all communication will be adapted and managed by the WEA and the Working Environment Knowledge Centre will be closed.
Efforts for orderly labour-market conditions will be strengthened
24.  Joint authority work to ensure orderly conditions The joint authority work of the WEA, the Tax Agency and the Police will continue in the period 2020 to 2022.
25.  Stricter inspection of large infrastructure projects There is a need for increased focus and a more targeted direction for efforts by the WEA in a number of areas in which existing efforts reveal special challenges with regard to regulatory compliance. Large construction projects and infrastructure projects will be subject of stricter OSH inspection.
26.  Strengthening the WEA's work to ensure orderly conditions The WEA will strengthen proactively visits of foreign enterprises and employees in the event of possible violations of the Working Environment Act, or if there are indications of other illegal conditions, e.g. human trafficking and forced labour.

Monitoring and surveillance capacities

Denmark can rely on a number of well-developed statistical data sets and monitoring capacities. Regular reporting about OSH, as well as the evaluation of OSH Policies and strategies, uses comprehensive data sets such as the Danish Work Environment Cohort Study (DWECS / Danish: Nationale Arbejdsmiljøkohorte, abbreviated NAK). This data source is based on information and results from studies on the working environment and health carried out by the National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NWERC) [18] - in the future WEA will take over from NWERC. The cohort study is a sample survey that used questionnaires and phone interviews to gain detailed information about the working environment and health. It was conducted in 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010 [19].

In 2012 the NAK-cohort was replaced by a new survey based on a larger sample. This survey resulted in a database with data from 16,300 participants. Data are available at the arbejdsmiljoforskning website. Furthermore every second year companies (employers, workers, safety representatives - total 4.300 persons) are asked about their efforts on health and safety.[20].

The data can be combined with data on prevention activities of enterprises, deriving from reports by the Danish Working Environment Authority and the NRCWE from 2001, 2004 and 2006 (the reports are called ‘VOV’ in Danish ‘Virksomhedsovervågningen’ or ‘surveillance of enterprises’)[21] More than 9,000 employers and employees answered questions about preventive activities in their workplaces[22].

Denmark also uses disease and medical treatment registers, such as the register of occupations and hospital treatment [23]. In addition there are conventional statistical sources, such as accidents at work and occupational disease statistics[24].

As part of the strategy the existing measurement programme for progress with regard to the working environment has been adapted, with particular focus on the prioritised areas. The Working Environment Council participates in the work.

The latest evaluation of the targets in the 2010-2020 strategy showed:

  • Increase of experienced MSD impact
  • A smaller increase inpsychosocial overload
  • A significant decrease in accidents
Social dialogue

Social dialogue at national level

Denmark has a long tradition of tripartite social dialogue in the field of work environment and working conditions (see also: Social dialogue in OSH). At national level, the employers association (DA) and the Central Labour organisation negotiate a basic agreement (Hovedaftalen) and a cooperation agreement (Samarbejdsaftalen). These national agreements serve as a framework for sectoral agreements. [25] Labour conditions are largely negotiated by collective agreements between the social partners. Tripartite social dialogue in the field of working environment and working conditions is a well-established element of Danish society. The OSH strategies were, in many aspects, developed by social partners in dialogues. [25]

The Working Environment Council is made up of representatives from the social partners. The council helps draw up rules and advises the Minister of Employment on OSH. It also co-ordinates all the parties' OSH work and plays a central role in designing initiatives for the Danish Parliament.

Social dialogue at sectoral level

Based on the above-mentioned national agreements, most of the negotiations on wages, working time and working conditions take place at sectoral level. The sectoral agreements are then implemented by the companies in each sector. [25] [26]

The Minister of Employment also appoints a number of Sectoral Working Environment Councils, which have been established to help find solutions to health and safety problems within specific industries. Employees’ and employers’ organisations from the sectors each appoint an equal number of members to the council, whose task is to assist individual companies within the sector in resolving working environment issues.

Social dialogue at enterprise level

Employee representation at company level is mainly shop stewards and the Cooperation Committee (works councils). [27] In the public sector, these committees are called co-determination committee (MED-udvalg). These works councils consist of an equal number of representatives of employees and management. The employee representatives are elected, as is the case with the shop steward. The Health and Safety Committee exists in parallel, and acts as the specific committee for OSH issues.

OSH infrastructure

OSH infrastructure

The Danish OSH infrastructure comprises well-equipped enforcement authorities and well-trained OSH personnel. There are manifest capacities in companies, as well as in major advisory bodies, and institutions for knowledge, research and training. Most responsibilities and activities are harmonised at national level.

Authority/public institutions

  • The Working Environment Authority
  • The Working Environment Board of Appeal
  • The National Research Centre For Working Environment
  • The Danish Working Environment Research Fund

Social partners

  • The Working Environment Council
  • 5 Sectorial Working Environment Councils

Occupational Health Service

  • Private consultants

Occupational Medicine clinics

  • Part of the public health system

National bodies

OSH authorities and Inspection services

The Danish Working Environment Authority (DWEA) The Danish Working Environment Authority (DWEA / Danish: Arbejdstilsynet - abbreviated AT) is an agency that works under the auspices of the Ministry of Employment at national and regional level, contributing to the creation of safe working conditions. It is empowered with supervision and enforcement rights, which are commonly designated to labour inspectorates in other countries. The three main fields of activity are:

  • Carrying out inspections in companies.
  • Drawing up OSH rules.
  • Providing OSH information.

The DWEA has the authority to penalise companies which do not comply with the working environment rules. They can also issue administrative fines for clear violations of the Working Environment Act, and in cases of extreme danger, they may also order work to be suspended.

The DWEA is managed by an Administrative Board made up of the Director-General, 2 Deputy Directors and three Inspection Directors. The headquarters and two of the four centres are located in Copenhagen. The regional Inspection Centres with approximately 100 employees each.

The Working Environment Authority is responsible for the inspection of OSH conditions in companies. This includes verifying that a written evaluation has been carried out, specific to that particular workplace. This is equivalent to a risk assessment in the terminology of the EU-OSH Directives.

If the company’s working environment and the health and safety policies are found to be in good order, no reason is seen for a new inspection in the near future. However, if problems are found, the company will be visited within a period of 12-18 months.

Table 3: Danish Working Environment Authority (DWEA) - Types of Inspection

Types of Inspection
Risk based inspections - from 2020 basic inspections Basic Inspection
sic Inspection +a
Special Inspections Comprehensive Inspections (Helheds Orienteret tilsyn HOT) - Initial HOT - Dialogue HOT - Follow up Chemical Safety Ergonomics Psychosocial risks Check - agreement process Sharpened Inspection Follow-up on feedback Social dumping
T - dialogueO
T - follow upO
emical Safetyh
ychosocial riskss
eck - agreement processh
arpened inspectionh
llow-up on feedbacko
cial dumpingo

Source: Overview by the authors

A list of the companies which have had a risk based inspection is published on DWEA website, with an emoticon (smiley) attributed to each company. The smiley changes when the com¬pany has resolved the problems that were encountered in former inspections, although a red or a yellow smiley is published for at least 6 months. The company can also be given an improvement notice, ordering it to seek advice from an authorised health and safety consultant.

Table 4: DWEA Smileys

<img class="img-responsive" src="/sites/oshwiki/files/oshwiki_images/dk-smiley-1.jpg" alt="" />
A red smiley indicates that the company has received a consultancy notice or a prohibition notice.
<img class="img-responsive" src="/sites/oshwiki/files/oshwiki_images/dk-smiley-2.jpg" alt="" />
A yellow smiley indicates that the company has received an improvement notice with a time limit or an immediate improvement notice.
<img class="img-responsive" src="/sites/oshwiki/files/oshwiki_images/dk-smiley-3.jpg" alt="" />
A green smiley indicates that the company has no issues with the Working Environment Authority.
<img class="img-responsive" src="/sites/oshwiki/files/oshwiki_images/dk-smiley-4.jpg" alt="" />
A smiley with a crown indicates that the company holds a recognised health and safety certificate. This means that the company has made an extraordinary effort to ensure a high level of health and safety.

Source: Danish Work Environment Authority [28]

To support the companies work with risk assessment, the DWEA has issued 85 sectoral workplace assessment checklists and 36 sectoral guidelines, which focus on the main problems.

The Senior Labour Inspectors Committee has performed two evaluations of the DWEA and the next evaluation is planned for 2019 [29].

The Working Environment Appeal Board (Arbejdsmiljøklagenævnet) The Working Environment Appeal Board is an independent authority affiliated to the Ministry of Employment, dealing with complaints against decisions made by the National Working Environment Authority (under the Working Environment Act). Complaints must be sent to the DWEA within four weeks of a company receiving the DWEA notice. The DWEA will then forward the complaint to the Board, which can uphold the DWEA’s decision. The Board consists of a chairman, 10 members from the social partners and three experts.

OSH services

Internal services It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure safe working conditions, including such specific responsibilities as ensuring that the employees receive working instructions. The employees must co-operate in OSH matters, including an obligation to use the protective equipment provided by the employer.

There is no specific representation for companies with fewer than 10 workers. However, at workplaces with 10 or more employees, the workers shall elect a colleague to serve as the health and safety representative. A representative and an area line manager constitute a health and safety group. The employer must ensure that the safety representative receives 3 days OSH training within 3 months of being elected, and give the opportunity to participating in further 2 days within a year, and 1.5 days annually thereafter.

In enterprises with 10-34 employees, cooperation on OSH matters shall be organised in a health and safety organisation. In enterprises with 35 or more employees, cooperation shall be organised with the following two levels:

  1. One or more groups shall be responsible for day-to-day tasks regarding health and safety. One group shall comprise one appointed supervisor and one elected health and safety representative.
  2. One or more committees shall be responsible for overall tasks related to health and safety. If one or two groups have been established in the enterprise pursuant to no. 1, the committee shall comprise the members of the group or groups. If more than two groups have been established, the health and safety representatives shall elect between them two members for the committee, and the supervisors in the groups shall elect between them two members for the committee.

The right of OSH representatives to be involved in risk assessment is common practice in Denmark, as is the right to stop production in the event of serious or immediate danger which cannot be avoided. [19]

The prevention level in Danish enterprises was surveyed as a part of the working environment monitoring by the National Research Centre for the Working Environment. They carried out a number of studies into OSH activities in companies. [4] The topics included:

  • quantitative data on safety groups in the workplace
  • safety committees
  • amalgamated safety and cooperation committees
  • formal organisation of health and safety activities
  • conducting risk assessment (APV),
  • meetings on health and safety within the last year.
  • formal and informal meeting structures.

Table 5: Health and safety activities, by number of employees in enterprises (2006 and 2011)

  1-9 employees 10-19 employees 20+ employees
Safety Group(s) at the workplace 12.4% 26.7% 51.5%
Safety Committee covering the workplace 12.5% 30.0% 59.0%
Safety- and Co-operation committee amalgamated 6.5% 11.7% 16.7%
No formal organisation of health and safety activities 56.9% 29.5% 4.9%
Risk assessment (APV) conducted 74.0% 91.0% 96.0%
1 or more meetings on health and safety within the last year - formal meeting structure 63.0% 77.9% 93.8%
Working environment is discussed by employees and employer or representatives – non-formal meeting structure 77.3% 82.8% 93.3%

Source: [19] [30]

Occupational Preventive and Health Services The Danish Occupational Health Service system was modified by the government in the Working Environment Reform in 2005. The previous mandatory system that required enterprises to seek advice from the Occupational Health Service was replaced with a system based on a combination of market-based consultancy and Working Environment Service authorised consultants [31](see also: Occupational health and safety services).

If a company is found to have an OSH problem, the Danish Working Environment Authority can issue a consultancy notice, ordering the company to seek advice from an authorised health and safety consultant, who must help solve the problem, and also reinforce preventive OSH activities.

Compensation and insurance bodies

Labour Market Insurance AES

Labour Market Insurance (Arbejdsmarkedets Erhvervssikring – AES) is an independent institution administrated by the Danish Labour Market Supplementary Pension Scheme (Arbejdsmarkedets Tillægspension – ATP).

AES follows the applicable regulations in determining whether an injury or illness can be classified as an industrial injury. When an injury or illness can be recognised as an industrial injury, AES then decides the amount of compensation payable.

AES funds and pays compensation for recognised occupational diseases. It is mandatory for all private and public sector employers in Denmark to contribute to AES.

International comparison of occupations accident insurance systems).

Other OSH bodies

The Working Environment Council (Arbejdsmiljørådet) The social partners are represented in the Working Environment Council, which advises the Minister of Employment on overall questions regarding the prioritization of OSH efforts. The Working Environment Council discuss questions which it finds important for OSH and comments on this to the Minister of Employment. The Council comments on and proposes new laws and rules. The Council also comments rules before they are established.

The Sector Working Environment Councils

The Minister of Employment can approve Sector Working Environment Councils, established to help companies resolve sector-specific OSH and working environment issues. Each council sets their own rules of procedure and establishes a secretariat.

Education, training, and awareness raising

Legally required training for OSH representatives and specialists

The implementation of the Framework Directive brought about the general obligation for employers to train their employees and workers’ representatives. Workers’ representatives in Denmark are elected at department or group level [31]. Social partners agree the amount of individual OSH training bases on sector specific requirements. Acording to the legislation the employer must take care for that the safety representative receives 3 days OSH training within 3 months of being elected, and give the opportunity to participating in 2 days within a year, and 1.5 days annually thereafter.

Many institutions and associations offer training, from basic courses to university degrees. The large providers are the sector safety councils, trade associations e.g. the association of OSH professionals, the social partners, private consultancies and universities (for higher level degrees).

Authorized OSH consultants, must have completed an appropriate course of at least 3 years or have acquired equivalent educational qualifications. Furthermore, they must gain two years concrete practical experience in OSH-advising, basically in enterprises. See also: OSH training.

Awareness raising networks

The Working Environment Information Centre (Videncenter for Arbejdsmiljø) This serves as a national centre for knowledge about the working environment. They collect and disseminate such information from companies, projects and research, and are located at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment, which helps ensure the scientific basis of the work.

Association of OSH Professionals (Sammenslutningen af Sikkerhedsledere i Danmark SSID) This association of safety managers was set up to help its members access the best available knowledge about safety, health and the environment.

Specialized technical, medical and scientific institutions

The Occupational Health Clinics Occupational Health Clinics perform medical examinations on people with symptoms or diseases that may be caused by their working environment. They offer advice and participate in training and research activities in the field. The clinics are located in hospitals.

Danish Toxicological Centre (DTC) The Danish Toxicology Centre is an independent institute which aims to provide expertise for business and society in the fields of toxicology, risk assessment, international regulation, industrial practice, and product information.

Research institutes

The National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NRCWE) (Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Arbejdsmiljø, NFA) NRCWE is a government research institute under the auspices of the Ministry of Employment. The mission of the NRCWE is to generate new research based knowledge about occupational safety and health in order to contribute to healthy and stimulating working conditions in accordance with the demands and needs of society, enterprises and the working environment system. The NRCWE provides research based knowledge and counselling to the Ministry of Employment, including the Danish Working Environment Authority. The NRCWE disseminates research based knowledge to the social partners, enterprises and working environment counsellors, contributes to higher education at the universities, and serves as an entrance to general information about working environment issues through the Working Environment Information Centre.

The following are the current strategic research areas of the NRCWE:

  • Psychosocial working environment
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Nano safety
  • Work accidents and safety culture

The Danish Working Environment Research Fund

The objective ofthe Danish Working Environment Research Fund is to strengthen Danish working environment research through the adoption of a research strategy and allocation of funds based on the prioritized themes laid out in the research strategy. Presently, these themes are:

  • Work accidents
  • Work accidents
  • Psychological working environment
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • OSH instruments The Fund supports research and development in occupational safety and health with the purpose of preventing and reducing working environment problems leading to mental and physical health problems and early retirement from the labour market. The Fund also supports reviews of occupational diseases on basis of specific calls for applications. From 2003 to 2016, the Fund has approved research grants for 284 projects totaling DKK 758,7 million. The Danish Working Environment Research Fund invites applications twice a year with deadlines around 1 March and 1 September.

Standardization agencies

Certification or accreditation by a recognised body are used to ensure that national standards correspond with training.

Institutions and organisations

Table 6: Danish institutions and organisations in the OSH field

Institution/ Organisation Websites
Ministry for Employment http://www.bm.dk/ (Danish) http://uk.bm.dk/ (English)
The Danish Working Environment Authority http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/da/ (Danish) http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/en/engelsk.aspx (English)
The Working Environment Appeal Board http://www.ast.dk/artikler/default.asp?page=1219 (Danish)
The Working Environment Council http://www.amr.dk/default.aspx?id=2 (Danish) http://www.amr.dk/default.aspx?id=910 (English)
National Board of Industrial Injuries (Arbejdsskadestyrelsen) http://www.ask.dk/ (Danish) http://www.ask.dk/en/English/About-us.aspx (English)
The Working Environment Information Centre http://www.arbejdsmiljoviden.dk/ (Danish)
The Danish Working Environment Research Fund http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/en/engelsk/research/arbejdsmiljoforskningsfonden (English)
The National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NRCWE) http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/da (Danish) http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/en (English)
The Danish Association of Occupational Health and Safety Consultants http://www.arbejdsmiljoraadgiverne.dk/1-45-forside.html (Danish) http://www.arbejdsmiljoraadgiverne.dk/1-55-english-version.html (English)
Association of OSH Professio-nals (Sammenslutningen af Sikker-hedsledere i Danmark (SSID) http://arbejdsmiljonet.dk/ (Danish)
Danish Toxicological Centre http://www.dhigroup.com/Aboutus/History/DanishToxicologyCentre.aspx (English)
Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening (DA), Confederation of Danish Employers http://www.da.dk/ (Danish) http://www.da.dk/ (English)
Dansk Industri (Di) Confederation of Danish Industry http://di.dk/Pages/Forsiden.aspx (Danish) http://di.dk/English/Pages/English.aspx (English)
The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) http://www.lo.dk (Danish) http://www.lo.dk/English%20version/About%20LO.aspx (English)
Kommunernes Landsforening (KL) Local Government Denmark http://www.kl.dk/English/
Danske Regioner Danish Regions http://www.Regioner.dk/English/
Ledernes Hovedorganisation Danish Association of Managers and Executives http//:www.lederne.dk
Finanssektorens Arbejdsgiverorganisatio The Employers Association for the Financial Sector http//:www.fanet.dk
Akademikernes Centralorganisation The Danish Confederation of Professional Association http//:www.ac.dk
FTF Confederation of Professionals in Denmark http//:www.ftf.dk

Source: Overview by the authors


[1] AT (Arbejdstilsynet; Danish Work Environment Authority), The working environment legislation, retrieved 15 May 2012, from: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/en/engelsk/regulations/working-environment-act.aspx.

[2] Notification (No. 1017 of 1997) to amend Notification (No. 867 of 1994) respecting performance at work, Copenhagen 1997. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex_browse.details?p_lang=en&p_country=DNK&p_classification=14&p_origin=COUNTRY&p_sortby=SORTBY_COUNTRY.

[3] Consolidated Danish Working Environment Act*), Consolidated Act No. 268 of 18 March 2005 as subsequently amended issued by the Danish Ministry of Employment - unofficial version. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/70346/78725/F1241650372/DNK70346%20English.pdf.

[4] Ministry of Social Affairs, Danish Report on the European Social Charter concerning articles 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 and 15 and 2 and 3 of the Additional Protocol for the period 1.1.01 to 31.12.04. Copenhagen, April 2006. Available at: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/socialcharter/reporting/statereports/Denmark26_fr.pdf.

[5] A strategy for working environment efforts up to 2020, Agreement between the Danish government (Denmark's Liberal Party and the Conservative People's Party), the Social Democratic Party, the Danish People's Party and the Social Liberal Party, 22 March 2010. Available at: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/~/media/at/at/12-engelsk/rapporter/2020%20engelskpdf.ashx

[6] Working Environment Act (Lov om arbejdsmiljø), 7 September 2010. Available in Danish at:https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=135215

[7] Strategi for arbejdsmiljøindsatsen frem til 2020. Available at:http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/da/om%20arbejdstilsynet/strategier-evalueringer-og-rapporter/arbejdsmiljoindsatsen-frem-til-2020

[8] AT (Arbejdstilsynet; Danish Work Environment Authority), Fremtidens arbejdsmiljø 2020 – Fagligt grundlag for prioritering af arbejdsmiljøinsatsen (The work environment of the future in 2020 – Facta basis for the prioritization of the work environment efforts), Copenhagen, 2010. Available at: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/NYHEDER/Nyheder-pg-pressemeddelelser/Nyheder%202010/Andre%20nyheder%20fra%20forsiden%202010/~/media/451308C838114351803A71BBE9C37F99.ashx

[9] AMR (Arbejdsmiljørådet; Danish Work Environment Council), Arbejdsministerens handlingsprogram ‘Rent arbejdsmiljø år 2005’,(Action Programme for a Clean Working Environment 2005). Copenhagen, 1996. Available at: http://webarkiv.ft.dk/?/samling/19961/udvbilag/amu/almdel_bilag325.htm

[10] AMR (Arbejdsmiljørådet; Danish Work Environment Council), Oplæg til ny national handlingsplan og prioriteringer for den samlede arbejdsmiljøindsats i Danmark frem til udgangen af 2010, (New National Action Plan and the prioritization of the overall working environment efforts in Denmark up to 2010), Copenhagen, 12.10.2005. 

[11] BM (Beskæftigelsesministeriet; Danish Ministry for Employment), Redegørelse om fremtidens arbejdsmiljø 2010 – ny prioritering af arbejdsmiljøindsatsen (report on a new prioritisation of the working environment effort), Copenhagen, december 2005. Available at: http://bm.dk/~/media/BEM/Files/Dokumenter/Publikationer/2005/Fremtidens_arbejdsmiljo_dec_2005.ashx

[12] BM (Beskæftigelsesministeriet; Danish Ministry for Employment), Nyt mål: 10 procent lavere sygefravær på grund af dårlig ryg inden udgangen af 2010 (press release), Copenhagen, october 2007. Available at: http://bm.dk/da/Aktuelt/Pressemeddelelser/Arkiv/2007/1005%20Nyt%20maal%2010%20procent%20lavere%20sygefravaer%20paa%20grund%20af%20daarlig%20ryg%20inden%20udgangen%20af%202010.aspx

[13] AT (Arbejdstilsynet; Danish Work Environment Authority), 10 år med handlingsprogrammet ’Rent Arbejdsmiljø år 2005’, (10 Years Action Programme Clean Work Environment 2005), Copenhagen, 2007. http://www.amr.dk/Admin/Public/Download.aspx?file=Files%2fFiler%2fAMR%2fDokumenter%2fRent_arbejdsmilj%EF%BF%BD-sammendrag.pdf

[14] AT (Arbejdstilsynet; Danish Work Environment Authority), Analyse af stigning i anmeldte arbejdsulykker 2003-2006, (Analysis of the increase of registered work accidents), Copenhagen, 2008, Available at: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/~/media/at/at/07-arbejdsmiljoe-i-tal/analyse-af-arbejdsulykker/rapport-analyse-af-arbejdsulykker%20pdf.ashx

[15] AT (Arbejdstilsynet; Danish Work Environment Authority), Tilsyn i tal – Besogte virksomheder, reaktioner og arbejdsmiljoproblemer 2008 – 2010. (Supervision in numbers – Visited workplaces, reactions and work environment problems). Retrieved 15 June 2016, from: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/da/statistik/tilsyn%20i%20tal

[16] Pedersen, B., Mikkelsen, K., Roepstorff, C., Quist, H., Arbejdstilsynets informationssystem (ATIS) & Virksomhedsovervågningen (VOV), Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Arbejdsmiljø, 2009. Available at: http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/upload/rapporter/ATIS_VOV.pdf

[17] A strategy for working environment efforts up to 2020, Agreement between the Danish government (Denmark's Liberal Party and the Conservative People's Party), the Social Democratic Party, the Danish People's Party and the Social Liberal Party, 22 March 2010. Available at: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/~/media/at/at/12-engelsk/rapporter/2020%20engelskpdf.ashx

[18] Burr, H., Bach, E., Gram, H. & Villadsen, E., Arbejdsmiljø i Danmark 2005 – et overblik fra den Nationale Arbejdsmiljø Kohorte, Den Nationale Arbejdsmiljøkohorte NAK, ed.: Arbejdsmiljøinstituttet, 2005, (Work Environment in Denmark 2005 – an overview about the national Work Environment Survey NAK), Copenhagen, 2005. Available at:http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/upload/nak2005_arbejdsmiljoe.pdf

[19] Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Arbejdsmiljo (The National Research Centre for the Working Environment)(2012): Arbejdsmiljø og helbred (2015). Virksomhedernes arbejdsmiljøindsats 2012 - 20. Available at: http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/da/arbejdsmiljoedata/arbejdsmiljoe-og-helbred-20

[20] Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Arbejdsmiljo (The National Research Centre for the Working Environment)(2012): Arbejdsmiljø og helbred (2015). Virksomhedernes arbejdsmiljøindsats 2012 - 20. Available at: http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/da/arbejdsmiljoedata/arbejdsmiljoe-og-helbred-20

[21] Fløcke, T et al., Overvågning af virksomhedernes forebyggende arbejdsmiljøarbejde (VOV), (Supervision of the preventive OSH-activities of the enterprises) Copenhagen, 2008. Available at: http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/~/media/Billeder-og-logoer/Billeder/Blandede/vov.pdf

[22] Grundtvig, G. og Roepstorf C., NFA-rapport. Overvågning af danske virksomheders forebyggende arbejdsmiljøarbejde 2011. Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Arbejdsmiljø (NFA), 2012. Available at: http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/da/projekter/virksomhedsovervaagningen-vov-arbejdet-med-sikkerhed-og-sundhed/~/media/Boeger-og-rapporter/VOV2011-091112-final.pdf

[23] Register on occupation and hospital treatment (Erhvervs- og hospitalbehandlings¬registret) Retrieved 15 June 2016, from: http://olddata.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/Nationale%20Data/EHR.aspx?lang=da

[24] AT (Arbejdstilsynet; Danish Working Environment Authority), Arbejdsskader (Reports ons accidents and diseases), Available at: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/da/statistik/arbejdsskader

[25] Eurofound; European industrial relations observatory online (EIRO): Denmark: Industrial relations profile, 29 May 2012. Retrieved at 29 May 2012, from: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/country/denmark_4.htm.

[26] Eurofound; European Working Conditions Observatory: Denmark EWCO comparative analytical report on Information, consultation and participation of workers concerning health and safety (published 22-10-2010) 29 May 2012, Retrieved at 29 May 2012, from: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/studies/tn0911028s/dk0911029q.htm.

[27] Eurofound: European Working Conditions Observatory: Health and safety at work in SMEs: Strategies for employee information and consultation, (published 23-09-2010), Retrieved at 29 May 2012, from: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/studies/tn0911028s/tn0911028s_3.htm.

[28] Description taken from the start page of the website of the Danish Work Environment Authority. Retrieved at 29 May 2012, from: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/en/engelsk/inspection/smiley-26-6-07.aspx.

[29] Senior Labour Inspectors Committee (SLIC) (2008): Report on the Evaluation of the Danish Working Environment Authority, Luxembourg, 2008. Available at: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/~/media/at/at/12-engelsk/slic/slic-report-evaluation-denmark-2008%20pdf.ashx.

[30] Grundtvig, G. og Roepstorf C., NFA-rapport. Overvågning af danske virksomheders forebyggende arbejdsmiljøarbejde 2011. Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Arbejdsmiljø (NFA), 2012. Available at: http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/da/projekter/virksomhedsovervaagningen-vov-arbejdet-med-sikkerhed-og-sundhed/~/media/Boeger-og-rapporter/VOV2011-091112-final.pdf

[31] Kabel, A. (2005): New occupational health service system in Denmark, Scandinavian Journal on Work Environment and Health SJWEH, Suppl 2005; no 1: 28 – 30.

Further reading

EU-OSHA - European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Denmark - Danish Focal Point of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (no publishing date). Retrieved, 19 November 2012, from: http://osha.europa.eu/en/oshnetwork/focal-points/denmark.

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Klaus Kuhl
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