The working environment legislation

Denmark has had regulation on worker protection since 1873 when a government authority - the Danish Working Environment Authority (WEA) - was set up to supervise compliance with the Act.

The first Act included a number of special rules on work performed by children and young persons in factories and workshops. Rules on guarding machinery were later introduced and in 1913 Denmark got an actual Factory Act. The Act aimed at prevention of accidents and diseases as a result of factory work. In 1954, the legislation was extended to include general workers’ protection.

In 1975, the working environment rules were consolidated into a single Act, the Danish Working Environment Act, which applies to all work on the ground and, in particular, work performed for an employer. The central part of the Act is the extended safety and health concept which means that all factors causing accidents, sickness and attrition must be taken into consideration in the prevention work.

The current Working Environment Act was passed in 2010.

Framework

The Danish Working Environment Act is a framework Act, which lays down the general objectives and requirements in relation to the working environment. The Act aims at preventing accidents and diseases at the workplace and at protecting children and young persons on the labour market through special rules.

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 persons under the age of 18.
 
The Working Environment Act emphasises that individual workplaces should be designed in a way which will prevent employees from being forced to leave the labour market due to attrition and stress. Factors - which in the short or long perspective - may lead to health risks of a physical or mental character must be remedied.

Developments in society change the working conditions all the time (introduction of new technologies, etc) and as a result, it is the purpose of the Act that the working environment shall be in conformity with the development at any time.

Responsibilities of the employer

It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the working conditions are safe and sound in any way. The employer also has a variety of responsibilities, inter alia to ensure that the employees receive work instructions. The employees must participate in the co-operation on safety and health. Furthermore, they have an obligation to use the protective equipment provided by the employer.