WEA responses – and company options to appeal

If a WEA inspection uncovers health and safety problems it can lead to various responses. These include guidance or a ruling that the company must carry out specific actions. The Danish WEA – Arbejdstilsynet – can also issue fines or notify the police in the event of serious violations of the Working Environment Act.

If a company fails to comply with its obligations under the Working Environment Act, the Danish Working Environment Authority – Arbejdstilsynet – has several response options.

A company may receive a prohibition notice if there is an imminent and substantial danger to employees or others' safety and health. A prohibition notice means that all work must cease immediately and may not be resumed until it can be performed safely.

A company can receive an immediate improvement notice if there is a serious work health and safety issue. An immediate improvement notice means that the deficiency must be rectified immediately. Arbejdstilsynet may allow the company to employ a temporary solution until the problem can be resolved permanently.
If a company receives a notice with time limit it means it may continue working but that it must find a permanent solution before the deadline expires. Arbejdstilsynet sets the deadline and ensures that it is long enough for the company to find a satisfactory and viable solution to the problem.

The company may be issued a ruling without obligation to act if it has violated health and safety legislation, but is not required to initiate actions because of the ruling. This can happen if a company has rectified a problem before the inspection is finished.

Read more about rulings without obligation to act

A company can receive an investigation notice if Arbejdstilsynet has a concrete suspicion that work health and safety conditions are unsatisfactory or as part of a more general investigation or ongoing monitoring of conditions in one particular industry. An investigation notice means that the company must undertake an investigation, take samples or carry out inspections to ensure that working conditions are satisfactory and in compliance.
A company can receive a consultancy notice if it receives a notice concerning a serious or complex health and safety issue that is difficult to resolve and that is covered by the Executive Order on the use of authorised consultancy firms in the occupational health and safety sector.

A company can also receive a consultancy notice if it receives a notice to investigate the psychological working environment or substitution of substances, if it receives a notice of many health and safety problems or if the notice concerns the preparation of a health and safety plan for a construction site.

A consultancy notice means that a company must use an authorised consultancy firm to assist in resolving and preventing the health and safety issue that is the subject of the notice. 

Read more on consultancy notices
Guidance from Arbejdstilsynet consists of information on health and safety regulations or recommendations for rectifying a specific health and safety issue. Arbejdstilsynet provides guidance when there is a health and safety situation at a workplace that can be improved but where there are no grounds for issuing a ruling. Guidance may be given verbally or in writing. Guidance is not legally binding.

A company that has received a notice with time limit, an immediate improvement notice or a prohibition notice must - before the deadline expires - inform Arbejdstilsynet how the notice issue has been resolved. Arbejdstilsynet may make one or more unannounced inspections of the company to ensure that the issue has been resolved satisfactorily.

Administrative fines and police notifications

The Danish Working Environment Authority – Arbejdstilsynet – also has the option to issue administrative fines or to report the company to the police.

An administrative fine is an offer to the company that it can close the case if it pays a fine by the deadline. The company therefore has the right to not pay the fine, but Arbejdstilsynet will then initiate court proceedings against the company after the payment deadline has passed.

The company can receive an administrative fine in cases of serious material breaches of clear and universally familiar areas of working environment law or violation of the obligation to provide notification of its services to the Register of Foreign Service Providers (RUT).

Arbejdstilsynet only issues administrative fines if the violation is clear and indisputable and not based on a discretionary decision.

Police reporting is used when there is a serious violation of the Working Environment Act, if the company does not comply with Arbejdstilsynet’s notices or for breach of the obligation to provide notification to the Register of Foreign Service Providers (RUT).

The police may subsequently prosecute the company. The prosecuting authority will determine if charges will be brought against the company and the prosecutor bears the burden of proof.

Violations of the Working Environment Act are usually sanctioned with fines but can in particularly serious cases lead to imprisonment. Violation of the obligation to provide notification to the Register of Foreign Service Providers (RUT) is usually punished with a fine.

Rulings, hearings and appeals

The company's view on all rulings against it will be heard. As a general rule the company is given the opportunity to present oral comments on the issues the Danish Working Environment Authority – Arbejdstilsynet – observes during inspection. If no management representative is present during inspection the company's view will be accepted in writing. This is also the case concerning especially complex health and safety issues.

The company may appeal the ruling to the Council of Appeal on Health and Safety at Work, which is an independent appeals body. The appeal must be sent to Arbejdstilsynet within 4 weeks of the company's receipt of the ruling. Arbejdstilsynet will forward the appeal to the Council of Appeal on Health and Safety at Work.

If an appeal concerning a notice has been submitted on time it acts as a suspension. This means that the company is not required to respond to the notice while the appeal is being processed. This does not apply to appeals concerning immediate improvement and prohibition notices which must be acted upon even though the company has appealed.