Agreed on better working behavior
Agreed on better working behavior

The rules for planning work with dangerous chemicals are based on issues that existed 30 years ago when asbestos and chronic painters’ syndrome were high on the agenda. To update the rules, so they reflect the workplaces’ contemporary needs for the planning of safe work environments, MindLab and the Danish Working Environment Authority together went into the field to portrait widely different industries, all working with chemicals on a daily basis. At the same time, MindLab and the Danish Working Environment Authority tried a different approach to the political negotiations of the rules, by taking an unconventional approach.


When everyone from hospitals, blacksmiths and construction companies handle chemicals in their work, they are subject to a set of rules that is mostly based on a 30-year old agenda. Through the years, new opportunities to plan the handling of chemicals has emerged. Therefore, the Danish Working Environment Authority wished to update and modernize the rules, so the workplaces in a transparent and safe way can plan the handling of chemicals at the individual workplace.

To illustrate how it is done today, the Danish Working Environment Authority and MindLab took to the field to observe and interview a range of different industries, which all manage chemicals to a greater or lesser extent in their everyday work. After visits at blacksmiths, hospitals, and metal and construction companies, four industry portraits were written. They map the everyday work and the challenges of working with chemicals. The industry portraits should be used as the basis for the initial dialogue between the labour markets’ partners in order to eventually agree on the framework for a new set of rules.

Knowledge over manage
When new safety regulations are made, the standard procedure is that the Danish Working Environment Authority come up with a proposal, which the parties respond to and discuss. Because the rules this time needed to be both updated and modernized, attempts were made to start the process somewhere else.

With the eyes fixed on the sole purpose of creating the best possible working environment for people who work with hazardous chemicals, the Danish Working Environment Authority and MindLab invited the labour market’s partners to a series of dialogue meetings prior to the negotiation of a final proposal. All participants were asked to leave their organization affiliation at the door, so knowledge and experiences freely could be shared with each other, without anyone having to adhere to a mandate from their organization. Thus, participants were present solely by virtue of their knowledge of the work environment.

The purpose of allowing the process to start a step earlier than usual was to create a common understanding of which chemical requirements does not work, and which should be adapted. With the four business portraits as the focal point, the discussions stayed concrete and fixated on a single objective: How can we support the employees in an appropriate behavior when working with hazardous chemicals.

Based on the dialogue sessions, principles for the planning of work with dangerous chemicals were identified and selected. They will now be tested on a number of companies around the country before the final draft regulations will be prepared and negotiated with the labour market’s partners.

Follow the process here