What to do when the Work Environment Authority knocks on the door

The Swedish Work Environment Authority calls you and wants to do an inspection of your work environment. This could make any employer faint, so I took a few minutes to interview my colleague and specialist on work environment law Louise Strömberg on what to do when the Work Environment Authority knocks on the door.

Thomas: I imagine this is not an uncommon situation for you, as you address work environment issues on a daily basis. What would be your first recommendation to employers who have been approached by the Work Environment Authority?

Louise: First of all, most often the Work Environment Authority informs in advance of their visit. And they are also helpful, meaning that they tell you how to prepare for the visit. Sometimes, they want to highlight a specific aspect of the work environment. Now, the organisational and social work environment aspects are in focus. Also, during 2020, the Work Environment Authority will have a specific focus on business sectors such as e-commerce and elderly care.

Thomas: Okay, so there is no need to panic. I suppose the best way to prepare is to map out how you work with the work environment, gather the documents you have and conclude what needs to be drafted?

Louise: That’s right. A useful approach is to go through the systematic work environment process wheel – that is Investigation, Risk Assessment, Measures, Control and then back to Investigation. There are really helpful guides on the Work Environment Authority’s website.

Thomas: What would you say would be the trickier parts – to be precise where you could easily go wrong – based on your experience with working with these processes?

Louise: The organisational and social work environment could be challenging, as the employer may need to adopt a completely different way of work to combat negative stress and mental illness. In this respect, one needs to think outside the box and challenge old practices.

Thomas: What is the usual outcome of an inspection?

Louise: In connection with the inspection, the inspector describes how he or she perceives the working environment and what is lacking. Shortcomings will later be described in writing in an inspection notice, which you need to address. Often, the inspector adds recommendations.

Thomas: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. If you would summarize your recommendation in one sentence, what would that be?

Louise: Well, that would be: Don’t panic, be structured, use the Work Environment Authority’s website as a resource – and give me a call if you need guidance. Additionally, remember that the inspections are aimed at strengthening the employer’s own ability to prevent risks, so why don’t make the most of the situation and level up your systematic work environment process? Every employer can do better, and this approach will surely be rewarding in the end.

Thomas Ogard
Louise Strömberg