Excerpted from Vogel 1994
Danish industrial relations provide an example of a country with a number of institutions that play a role in relation to health and safety. The main features are:
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING: Negotiation of agreements by which trade unions and employers fix wages, conditions of work, etc. Pertinent highlights are:
Shop stewards who are elected by workers under collective bargaining agreements; enjoy statutory protection against dismissal; serve as channel between workers and management on working conditions.
Collective Agreement on Cooperation and Cooperation Committees provides for information to be given to individuals and groups of workers in advance so they can make their views known before a decision is taken and for the establishment of cooperation committees.
Cooperation committees must be set up in all firms employing more than 35 workers (25 in the public service). Joint committees to promote cooperation in day-to-day operations; they must be consulted on the introduction of new technologies and the organization of production; some co-determination rights on working conditions, training and personal data.
National collective agreement on industrial disputes (of 1910) gives workers a right (rarely exercised) to stop work if considerations of “life, welfare or honour” make this absolutely necessary. Other collective agreements contain provisions on training and trade unions also provide it.
FRAMEWORK LAW: The Working Environment Act creates “the basis on which the undertakings themselves will be able to solve questions relating to safety and health under the guidance of the employers’ and workers’ organizations and under the guidance and supervision of the Labour Inspection Service” (Sec. 1(b)). The Act establishes a complete system from the plant to the national level to permit worker participation:
Safety representatives are elected representatives required in firms employing at least ten workers; they enjoy the same protection against dismissal and retaliation as shop stewards and are entitled to reimbursement of official expenses.
Safety groups: The safety representative and the department supervisor form the safety group. Its functions are to:
- monitor working conditions
- inspect equipment, tools, materials
- report any risk which cannot be avoided immediately
- halt production where necessary to avert an imminent serious danger
- ensure that work is performed safely and proper instructions are given
- investigate industrial accidents and occupational diseases
- participate in prevention activities
- cooperate with the occupational health service
- act as link between workers and the safety committee.
Members of the safety group are entitled to training and to necessary information.
Safety Committees are required in firms employing at least 20 workers. In firms with more than two safety groups, the safety committees consist of workers elected from among safety representatives, two supervisor members and an employer’s representative.
The functions are:
- planning, directing and coordinating health and safety activities
- being consulted on these matters
- cooperating with other companies engaged in work at the same workplace
- cooperating with the company’s occupational health service
- supervising the activity of safety groups
- making recommendations on prevention of accidents and diseases.
WORKING ENVIRONMENT COUNCIL involves employers’ and workers’ organizations in the definition and application of preventive policy at the national level. Composition: 11 representatives of employee organizations representing manual and non-manual workers, one for supervisors, ten of employers’ organizations, plus an occupational medical practitioner, a technical expert and non-voting governmental representatives. Functions:
- is consulted on drafting legislation and regulations
- may on its own initiative take up a health and safety matter
- submits annual recommendations on working environment policy
- coordinates the activities of Trade Safety Councils
- supervises the activity of the Working Environment Fund.
WORKING ENVIRONMENT FUND is managed by a tripartite board. The Fund has mainly information and training duties, but also finances research programmes.
TRADE SAFETY COUNCILS: Twelve Trade Safety Councils examine the problems of their trade or industry and advise undertakings. They are also consulted on draft legislation. Equal representation of employers’ and supervisors’ organizations on the one hand and workers’ organizations on the other hand.
GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITIES: In addition, the Ministry of Labour, the Labour Inspection Service and within it, the Danish Institute of the Working Environment, provide various types of services and advice in the field of occupational safety and health. Collective industrial disputes are heard by the Labour Courts.