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High emotional demands when working with people

WEA Guideline no. 4.2.1 on high emotional demands when working with people.

1. About the guidelines

1.1. What do the guidelines contain?

These WEA guidelines describe the most important duties you have as an employer in your preventive work on high emotional demands when working with people, and what you can do to fulfil these duties.

You can take different approaches to prevention from those described in these guidelines, as long as you ensure that the work is planned, organised and carried out in a way that is fully compliant with health and safety in regard to high emotional demands.

1.2. Who are the guidelines relevant for?

The target group for these guidelines is primarily employers, supervisors, the occupational health and safety organisation (HSO), and other employees who work with occupational health and safety in the company. Within the company, the employer is the primary target group because it is the employer who is legally obliged to ensure that the work is fully compliant with health and safety.

These guidelines are relevant for companies that have one or more employees who have high emotional demands when working with people.

High emotional demands can occur in many different types of work, for example:

  • Pedagogical work and teaching
  • Exercise of control and authority
  • Nursing, care and treatment work
  • Rescue work
  • Sales and service work
  • Transportation of passengers.

All employees in the company are covered by the rules on high emotional demands, regardless of the nature and duration of the employment relationship. The rules therefore also apply to e.g. project employees, temporary workers, trainees, and others more loosely connected with the company.

Note that supervisors are also included in the term "employees". Supervisors have a dual role. They manage and supervise work on behalf of the employer, and are also employees themselves.

1.3. The guidelines' approach to prevention

The guidelines are based on the principles that underlie all work to prevent health and safety issues.

a) Duties and roles of employers, supervisors and other employees

As an employer, you have overall responsibility by law for ensuring that the work is compliant with health and safety.

The Danish Working Environment Authority's guidelines describe what that duty entails for you as an employer in a specific area.

Supervisors and other employees also have a number of duties and roles. These are general duties and tasks and are therefore not described in the guidelines, but you can read more about them at at.dk/pligter.

b) Collaboration on health and safety

It is a requirement of health and safety legislation that you, as an employer, collaborate with your supervisors and other employees on health and safety work and the prevention of health and safety problems. If there are 10 or more employees in the company, the collaboration must take place in a HSO. Be aware of the rules for which employees are included, and that there are exceptions to the 10-employee rule. In some companies, collaboration on occupational health and safety is integrated into other forums, e.g., in municipalities and regions, where it takes place in the MED system.

The HSO has a number of tasks to do in the health and safety work. Read more about the HSO's tasks at at.dk/amo.

c) The principles of prevention

The prevention of high emotional demands when working with people must take the statutory principles of prevention into account. The purpose of the principles of prevention is to ensure that the prevention is effective.

According to the principles of prevention, you, as an employer, must, as far as possible, avoid high emotional demands, which may involve a risk to the safety or health of employees. When there are high emotional demands, you must identify and assess these demands and prevent risks to the health and safety of employees. Prevention must target the conditions at work that cause high emotional demands. The causes can give an idea of what actions are needed, and where in the company they should be implemented. Prevention must also protect all employees from the risk, not just individual employees.

Find the principles of prevention in Appendix 1 to the Executive Order on Psychosocial Working Environment at at.dk/forebyggelsesprincipper.

d) Prevention is an ongoing process

As an employer, it is necessary that you continuously identify whether there are high emotional demands in the company, because you have a duty to ensure that the work is compliant with health and safety at all times. If there are high emotional demands, you must assess whether the risk to the health and safety of employees is effectively prevented and, if necessary, implement effective preventive measures. Finally, as an employer, you must ensure that effective supervision is conducted on an ongoing basis, to ensure that the work is carried out safely and that the measures taken are effective, see Figure 1.

In your prevention work, you can follow the processes used in the work with the statutory workplace assessment (WPA). Read more at at.dk/apv.

Figure 1 - Identify high emotional demands - Assess the risk to employees’ health and safety - Prevent the risk to employees’ health and safety - Effectively supervise the performance of work
Figure 1 - Identify high emotional demands - Assess the risk to employees’ health and safety - Prevent the risk to employees’ health and safety - Effectively supervise the performance of work.

Most important clauses

Executive Order on Collaboration on Health and Safety, Sec. 2

Executive Order on Psychosocial Working Environment, Sec. 6, and Appendix 1

Executive Order on performance of Work, Sec. 6 a - c

2. Definition, consequences and the duty to ensure that work is safe

2.1. What are high emotional demands when working with people?

The Executive Order on the Psychosocial Working Environment defines high emotional demands when working with people as work that involves direct or indirect contact with people, including citizens and customers, and where this contact require that you:

  1. familiarise yourself with, manage or deal with the thoughts, feelings or behaviour of these people;
  2. manage or hide own thoughts or feelings, or
  3. adapt communication or behaviour to the people being worked with.

These WEA guidelines deal exclusively with the emotional demands that relate to contact with people who are not employees or employers of the company, i.e. citizens, customers, relatives, users, patients, inmates, pupils, children and young people, etc. These WEA guidelines do not address the risk of work-related violence. You can read more about this in the WEA guidelines on violence.

2.2. Health and safety implications for employees

Working with people can be meaningful but at the same time pose a risk to the health or safety of employees.

High emotional demands when working with people can increase the risk of long-term sickness absence and, for example, mental and physical exhaustion, sleep problems, concentration difficulties, long-term stress, anxiety, depression and burnout.

High emotional demands can also increase the risk of work accidents. This could be the case, for example, if employees are so burdened by high emotional demands that they are unable to follow safety procedures and do not act  in accordance with safety. This can increase the risk of for example violent incidents.  

2.3. Health and safety risks must be prevented

As an employer, you have a duty to ensure that the work is planned, organised and carried out in such a way that it is fully compliant with health and safety in both short and long term in regard to high emotional demands when working with people.

This means that high emotional demands must not compromise the safety or health of employees in the short or long term. It also means that, as an employer, you must take effective measures to prevent employees from getting sick or injured due to high emotional demands.

Most important clauses

Executive Order on Psychosocial Working Environment, Sec. 19 and 20

3. Identify and assess high emotional demands when working with people

Figure 2 - Identify and assess high emotional demands
Figure 2 - Identify and assess high emotional demands.

As an employer, you must continuously assess whether, in your  company, there are high emotional demands when working with people. If there are high emotional demands, you must assess whether the risk to the health and safety of your employees is effectively prevented.

In this work, it is appropriate to involve employees because their experiences are an important source of knowledge about high emotional demands in the company. It is therefore also very important to have safe dialogue in the company, so that employees have the opportunity to voice challenges in their work.

Identification and assessment can be done as part of both daily collaboration on tasks and as part of more comprehensive investigations into the psychosocial working environment. This could for example, be as part of the WPA.

3.1. How to identify high emotional demands when working with people

As an employer, you can start by looking at work that involves direct or indirect contact with people. The work can be physical, telephonic, written or virtual. It can also involve witnessing, reading about or looking at photos or videos about people's situation.

Next, you can look at what is characteristic of the people employees interact with. In particular, high emotional demands may be placed on employees if: 

  • The people being worked with find themselves in or are relatives to people in serious or complex living conditions. For example:
    • Discontent, grief or crisis
    • Neglect
    • Physical or mental illness, injury or disability
    • Financial difficulties or social problems
    • Abuse or crime.
  • The people being worked with have a challenging behaviour, for example:
    • Aggressive, inappropriate or externalising behaviour
    • Reprimands, displeasure or accusations
    • Manipulative or entreating behaviour
    • Unpredictable or erratic behaviour
    • Self-harm or threats of self-harm
    • Attention-seeking behaviour, disruptions or interruptions
    • Helplessness, silence, crying or rejection.

You can also look at the tasks that employees have in contact with these people. Tasks that can involve high emotional demands when working with people are for example:

  • Motivating, supporting, helping or providing a service
  • Making decisions that can have far-reaching impacts on other people's lives
  • Nursing, caring, treatment or assessment
  • Rescue work
  • Supervising, monitoring, setting limits or requirements
  • Dealing with complaints, anger, frustration or dissatisfaction
  • Collaboration with relatives.

What emotional demands does working with people place on employees?

Once you have identified the tasks that involve direct or indirect contact with people, you can then look at whether they require one or more of the following from your employees:

  1. High demands to familiarise yourself with, manage or deal with the thoughts, feelings or behaviour of these people. For example, employees may be required to be able to:
    • Perceive and appreciate these people’s state and situation.
    • Predict behaviour and thereby remain in control of a situation.
    • Accommodate inappropriate, negative or other emotional behaviour.
  2. High demands to manage or hide own thoughts or feelings. For example, employees may be required to be able to:
    • Manage their own emotional reactions, which arise due to their awareness of the serious and difficult living conditions of the people being worked with.
    • Hide emotions such as anger or powerlessness that arise in employees when interacting with the people being worked with.
  3. High demands to adapt communication or behaviour to the people being worked with. For example, employees may be required to be able to:
    • Express feelings they don't really have, e.g. smile and act politely and appreciatively, even if they are faced with criticism or a harsh tone.
    • Navigate through difficult dilemmas, such as getting involved but not involving themselves too little or too much, or exercising authority while also showing care and understanding.

High emotional demands can affect individual employees, individual teams or departments within the company, or the entire company.

Pay attention to

Risk of work-related violence

It is important to be aware of any behaviour that may involve both high emotional demands and a risk of physical or psychological violence. This could be, for example, offensive or externalising behaviour. This is important, partly because preventing the risk of violence requires other preventive measures, but also because you have particular duties as regards the risk of violence. Read more about work-related violence and your duties in the Executive Order on the Psychosocial Working Environment and in the WEA guidelines on violence.

Psychological first aid for traumatic events

It's also important to consider whether there is a risk of employees being exposed to a traumatic event. A traumatic event can be, for example, unexpected death, serious injury, imminent threat of death, or serious threats to the physical or psychological safety or health of yourself or others. If there is a particular risk of employees being exposed to or witnessing traumatic events at work, you, as an employer, must ensure that the necessary psychological first aid measures are in place. As an employer, you must also ensure that employees have access to psychological first aid if they have been directly exposed to or witnessed a traumatic event. Read more about psychological first aid at at.dk.

3.2. How do you assess whether health and safety risks are effectively prevented?

The risk is not effectively prevented when the preventive measures are not suitable for the extent and nature of the contact that places high emotional demands.

The extent depends on:

  • How often the contact occurs in the daily work, and for how long.
  • How long the contact has been ongoing.

The nature depends on:

  • The complexity and severity of the living conditions of the people being worked with.
  • How challenging the behaviour of the people being worked with is.
  • How difficult and complex the employees' tasks are in relation to the people being worked with.
  • The specific emotional demands of the contact, and how stringent these demands are.

Whether the preventive measures are suitable for the extent and nature of the contact depends, among other, on whether the measures are sufficient and relevant as regards to:

  • Preparing for the contact. For example, employees may need the necessary knowledge about the people they are in contact with, including their needs and behaviour.
  • Managing the contact. For example, employees may need sufficient competences and time to handle tasks that entail high emotional demands, and to have a say in how and when the tasks are completed.
  • Following up on the contact. For example, employees may need collegial and managerial support and sparring or supervision to help them deal with the emotional stresses of work.

It takes less time for the high emotional demands to pose a risk to the safety or health of employees:

  • The more contact there is in the daily work.
  • The more difficult the nature of the contact is.

The less suiteble the preventive measures are to the extent and nature.

Signs that the risks to safety or health are not effectively prevented

There are a number of factors that may indicate that the safety or health risks associated with high emotional demands are not being effectively prevented. These factors can help you assess the risk.

If any of the conditions below occur over a long period of time, it is important to find out if they are signs that the safety or health risks of high emotional demands are not being effectively prevented, or if they are about something else.

  • There are conflicts with the people being worked with.
  • There are negative criticisms or complaints about employees' work from the people being worked with.
  • There is a lack of commitment to the work.
  • There are employees who distance themselves from the people being worked with, for example by having a cynical approach to them.
  • There are employees who involve themselves too much with the people being worked with.
  • There is negative criticism of employees' work from management or colleagues.
  • There are conflicts or collaboration issues within the company.
  • There is high sick absence or high staff turnover.
  • There are work accidents or near-misses.
  • Mistakes are made at work.

For the individual employee, the following may be signs that the risk to safety or health is not being effectively prevented:

  • Sleep problems.
  • Mental or physical exhaustion.
  • Easily tearful, low spirits or increased irritability.
  • Difficult to stop thinking about work outside of work.
  • On constant alert.
  • Memory problems or concentration difficulties.
  • Feeling of professional inadequacy.
  • Tendency to isolate socially.
  • Indifference or insensibility.
  • Powerlessness, hopelessness or feeling of guilt.

Influences that may increase the risks to safety or health

As an employer, you must assess whether there are influences in the working environment that may increase the risks from high emotional demands when working with people. These influences are highly dependent on the type of work employees do.

The risks from high emotional demands can increase if there are also:

  • Risk of violence at work, making it difficult for employees, for example, to build and maintain relationships with the people being worked with.
  • Heavy workload and time pressure, so employees don't have the time to complete the tasks associated with the contact, or have the peace of mind to create the presence that is required.
  • Unclear demands at work, e.g. lack of clarity about their professional approach, or who is responsible for which tasks in relation to the people being worked with.
  • Conflicting demands at work, for example managers may have conflicting expectations of employees as regards the level of service and quality they should provide to the people they work with.
  • Inappropriate physical environment. For example, if employees don't have access to areas where they can withdraw from an emotionally stressful encounter, and take a break. Or it may be that employees can’t hold confidential or difficult conversations with the people being worked with without interruption.
  • Noise that disturbs the contact, e.g. from traffic, construction, or other people.

Consideration of employees’ preconditions

When you, as an employer, assess whether the risk to employees' health and safety from high emotional demands when working with people is effectively prevented, you must always assess whether there is a need to consider the individual employee's ability to perform their work in a safe manner. It could be a matter of the employee's age, insight or ability to work. Special consideration may need to be given to young people and new employees, for example if they don’t have much experience with the work. Special consideration may also need to be given to employees with physical or mental disabilities.

Protection of particularly sensitive risk groups

You must also assess whether there are employees who need special protection from the risks associated with high emotional demands when working with people because the risks are particularly severe for them. For example, pregnant women may be particularly sensitive to the stress that high emotional demands can cause.

Most important clauses

Executive Order on Psychosocial Working Environment, Sec. 8, 19, 20 and 21

4. Prevent risks to employees’ health and safety

Figure 3 - Prevent risks to employees’ health and safety
Figure 3 - Prevent risks to employees’ health and safety.

As an employer, you have a duty to take preventive measures when necessary to ensure that the work is health and safety compliant in regard to the high emotional demands when working with people. These measures must be effective, so that employees don't fall ill or get injured as a result of high emotional demands.

You must plan and implement preventive measures in collaboration with your employees and HSO. The latter only applies to companies with 10 or more employees.

If the necessary expertise is not available within the company to prevent risks from high emotional demands, you, as an employer, must seek external expertise to ensure that the work is completely safe.

4.1. The most important preventive measures

It is particularly important to focus on the following measures when you, as an employer, must prevent the risks from high emotional demands when working with people:

  • Planning and organisation of work, to ensure that the work is safe.
  • Sufficient and appropriate training and instruction on how to carry out the work.
  • Support from management and colleagues.
  • Influence in relation to the work that needs to be carried out.
  • Consideration of employees’ preconditions.
  • Protection of particularly sensitive risk groups.

You should to the extent possible avoid high emotional demands, which could put your employees' health or safety at risk. This can include measures in respect of the extent and nature of the contact. Not all high emotional demands can be completely avoided. In this situation, you must prevent the risks by ensuring that employees can handle the contact, for example through measures that allow for sufficient and relevant preparation, handling and following up on the contact.

4.2. Planning and organisation of work, to ensure that the work is safe

As an employer, you have a duty to plan and organise the work to ensure it is health and safety compliant in regard to the high emotional demands when working with people.

Planning and organisation of work is crucial to the successful prevention of the risks from high emotional demands. Below are some examples of how you can work with your employees to plan and organise the work.

  • You can ensure a common approach to working with people by having clear goals, methods, roles and guidelines for the work.
  • You can continuously reconcile or communicate expectations of the service or quality level with the people being worked with, so they know what performance, service or product they can expect.
  • You can make sure there is sufficient time to carry out the tasks involved in contact with people, including preparing, handeling and following up on the contact.
  • You can organise work so that emotionally demanding tasks are alternated with other types of tasks, such as administrative tasks, or varied, depending on their complexity or the problems of the people the employee comes into contact with.
  • You can support a work culture that allows for frequent breaks for recovery.
  • You can make sure there is a suitable physical environment, such as space to conduct confidential or difficult conversations without interruptions, and to prepare and follow up on the contact with the people being worked with.
  • You can systematically pay attention to your employees' needs and opportunities to prepare, handle and follow up on the contact with the people being worked with by, for example, setting aside time for sparring, meetings and supervision.

Remember to monitor whether the measures are implemented as planned.

Example: Reconciliation of expectations and a common approach improved collaboration with relatives

In one workplace, the employees’ collaboration with some of their relatives was challenging. There were a lot of conflicts, and staff found that the relatives could be critical and condescending. Conflicts often revolved around the level of service employees could provide to the citizens, and the employees had different approaches to collaboration with the relatives.

The workplace focused on creating a more collaborative approach to working together by, among other things, management and employees setting clear goals and guidelines for collaboration, and strengthening opportunities for knowledge sharing in the shift-to-shift overlap. In addition, the management entered into a dialogue with the relatives to agree upon expectations of the service level. The measures improved collaboration with the relatives, and fewer conflicts arose.

Example: Redistribute tasks to reduce high emotional demands

In one workplace, employees regularly learned about serious issues in families, such as child neglect, abuse and severe distress. The employees were confronted with these issues in conversations with families and children, as well as in written materials, pictures, etc. An investigation of the working environment showed that it was often the same few employees who had to deal with the most serious cases, and they had stated that they often felt inadequate in their work.

Management and the health and safety organisation decided that other employees should be trained, so that the most serious cases could be shared among several employees. There was also a focus on alternating employees' contact with citizens with other types of tasks. It was also decided that employees and their immediate managers should set aside a fixed time in their calendar to discuss employees’ needs and opportunities to prepare, handle and follow up on contact with the families.

4.3. Sufficient and appropriate training and instruction on how to carry out the work

As an employer, you have a duty to ensure that each employee receives sufficient and appropriate training and instruction on how to carry out their work in a health and safety compliant manner in regard to the high emotional demands when working with people. Training and instruction are therefore key preventive measures.

You must pay special attention to training and instruction when you bring new employees into the company, including project employees, temporary workers, trainees and others more loosely connected with the company. You must also pay special attention to providing training and instruction when changes are made to employees' work. For example, when employees are given new tasks, when there are changes in the target group being worked with, or when there are changes in the way the work is carried out. This could be due to new procedures, new legislation, new work equipment, or the introduction of new technology.

Training and instruction must be repeated regularly if necessary.

In your training and instruction, you as an employer can benefit from focusing on:

  • Equipping employees with the right competences to perform their tasks in relation to the people being worked with.
  • Training employees in relevant techniques, such as communication competences, that could help to de-escalate conflicts.
  • Giving employees the necessary knowledge about the people they work with, such as their needs, behaviour and challenges.
  • Training employees on how to prepare, handle and follow up on contact with the people being worked with.

Example: Clear guidelines and roles helped employees with the difficult contact

At one educational institution, some of the staff experienced students showing signs of severe distress, and conflicts arose between staff and students because the students reacted to their situation with externalizing behaviour. Dealing with students' social and mental health issues was not the core task of the employees, nor did they have the professional competences to do so. Employees felt great frustration and powerlessness.

Management reacted by, among other things, increasing the focus on the training and instruction of all employees who had contact with students. The aim was for employees to know who was responsible for what, how to act, and what options there were for help and support when they came into contact with students showing signs of distress. Staff were also trained in professional techniques to support students. As a result, staff were better equipped to engage with students, more confident in their own roles and actions, and fewer conflicts arose between staff and students.

Read more about training and instruction in the WEA Guidelines "Training, Instruction and Supervision of Work".

4.4. Support from management and colleagues

Support from management and colleagues is an important measure to successfully prevent risks to employees’ health and safety from high emotional demands when working with people. Support at work from management and colleagues helps employees to cope with the demands of the job. You and your employees can focus on the following, for example, to ensure the necessary support at work:

  • Establishing a good dialogue between management and employees, so that employees can confidently call attention to emotional stresses in their interactions with the people being worked with, and offer suggestions for solutions.
  • Giving employees access to help, support and sparring from management and colleagues in their daily work, for tasks related to contact with the people they work with.
  • Giving employees constructive feedback and recognition on how tasks are completed in relation to the demands and expectations of the job. This can be from both management and colleagues.
  • Management ensuring that employees are able to regularly and systematically prepare for and follow up on the contact, e.g. through supervision or professional sparring.
  • Giving employees support and care in particularly stressful situations, e.g. by offering psychological counselling.

Example: New shift schedule provided better opportunities to talk about the high emotional demands

In a workplace with vulnerable citizens, management became aware that safety procedures, such as checking citizens for drugs, were not always followed. They had experienced that drug abuse could result in aggressive behaviour, and thus an increased the risk of violent incidents. Upon further investigation, management realised that employees did not have the energy to deal with the conflicts with citizens that could arise in connection with the security procedures. Employees found themselves alone in these situations, with no time or opportunity to talk to colleagues about it.

Management then developed a new shift schedule for the staff, which meant there were more staff to receive visiting citizens, overlap between shifts, and regular staff meetings for all staff. Regular group supervision was also introduced to allow staff to process the emotional strain from the contact with citizens.

Example: Increased focus on following up on of high emotional demands

In one workplace, employees occasionally witnessed traumatic events as part of their work, such as serious traffic accidents and suicide attempts. The workplace had the necessary measures in place for providing psychological first aid. In most of the employees' work, contact with citizens was less serious, but still emotionally demanding.

The workplace had staff meetings once a week, but for a long time there had been no time for the employees to talk together about what was important in their contact with the citizens. Few employees were increasingly taking sick leave, others seemed less engaged in their work, and conflicts between employees had started to increase.

Management and employees agreed to expand the staff meetings and make the following up on the daily contact a regular agenda item. It was also decided that the immediate manager should ask about the emotional impact of contact with the citizens when discussing work tasks with individual employees.

4.5. Influence in relation to the work that needs to be carried out                         

Influence in relation to the work is also an important measure to successfully prevent risks to employees’ health and safety from high emotional demands when working with people. Influence is about having the ability to make an impact on work, and helps employees manage the demands of their work. As an employer, you can ensure that your employees have influence in their work, for example by:

  • Involving employees in planning and organising contact with the people being worked with, e.g. in relation to decisions about professional goals, methods, roles and guidelines.
  • Giving employees a say in when, how and in what order tasks related to contact with the people being worked with are
  • Meeting regularly to discuss how you can prevent the risks from high emotional demands.

Example: Influence on requirements made work less emotionally demanding

In one workplace, a core part of employees’ work was to handle customer complaints. Employees experienced aggressive behaviour and violent emotional outbursts from customers on a regular basis. Employees found these situations particularly stressful because they were instructed to smile and be appreciative and thus had to hide their emotions. Employees found it hard to put some of these experiences behind them after work.

Management decided to involve employees more in planning and organising their work, and it was decided to instruct employees differently. The change in instruction meant that employees were not required to smile at customers and be appreciative in all situations. Instead, they could withdraw if their limits were exceeded and refer customers to management. As a result, the work became less emotionally demanding, and employees were better able to handle customer complaints.

Example: More influence in planning and organising difficult conversations

At one workplace, employees were tasked with making decisions about helping vulnerable citizens. In some cases, employees were unable to provide the help the public wanted due to to legal restrictions.

Employees felt guilty and inadequate because citizens often felt unsafe, and there were many complaints and conflicts between the visitors and employees. For example, several employees stated that they had trouble sleeping at night because they were thinking about their work.

As a result, management decided to give employees more influence over the planning and organisation of their work. This meant, among other things, that employees were more able to decide on the timing and length of difficult conversations about, for example, refusals. This allowed the employees to choose an appropriate time based on their specialist knowledge of the citizen, and ensure that there was time for their own preparation and follow-up on the conversations.

4.6. Consideration of employees’ preconditions

In your work to prevent risks to employees' health and safety from high emotional demands when working with people, you have a duty, as an employer, to take account of the individual employee's preconditions, including age and insight, for being able to carry out their work in a safe manner.

For example, if the employee does not have so much work experience or prior knowledge relevant to the job, then training and instruction or further support from management and colleagues may be needed for some time.

4.7. Protection of particularly sensitive risk groups

You also have a duty to protect particularly sensitive employees from the risks from high emotional demands when working with people that are particularly severe for them.

For example, pregnant women may be particularly sensitive to the stress that high emotional demands may cause. Therefore, preventive measures may need to be taken at an earlier stage, or slightly different measures may be needed to protect these employees. These could be extra breaks during working hours, or adjusting their work tasks.

Most important clauses

Executive Order on Psychosocial Working Environment, Sec. 6, 8, 9, 10, 19 and 21

Working Environment Act, Sec. 5

5. Effectively supervise the safe performance of work

Figure 4 - Effectively supervise the performance of work
Figure 4 - Effectively supervise the performance of work.

As an employer, you have a duty to conduct effective supervision to ensure that the performance of the work is health and safety compliant in regard to the high emotional demands when working with people. Your supervisors must ensure that the measures put in place to promote health and safety are working as intended.

In order to be effective, it is necessary that the supervision is ongoing, to ensure that employees are actually carrying out their work in a way that prevents them from becoming ill or being injured as a result of high emotional demands. This is necessary because high emotional demands may vary from employee to employee and from department to department, as well as over time. The frequency and extent of the supervision depends on the nature of the work, the preconditions of the employees, and the occurrence of high emotional demands.

The supervision must include:

  • How employees carry out the work, and whether they follow the training and instruction they have been given to be able to carry out the work in a manner that is health and safety compliant.
  • Whether the preventive measures are effective in dealing with the high emotional demands.
  • Whether the training and instruction has been sufficient and appropriate.
  • Whether employees adjust the way they do their work when they are made aware that, for example, they are not doing the work as is expected.

Read more about supervision in the WEA Guidelines "Training, Instruction and Supervision of Work".   

If the supervision shows that there are high emotional demands, you, as an employer, must assess whether the risk to the health and safety of your employees is effectively prevented, see Chapter 3. If necessary, you must take preventive measures, see Chapter 4.

Effective supervision can also provide valuable input for the annual health and safety discussion, and the work with the WPA.

Most important clauses

Executive Order on Psychosocial Working Environment, Sec. 11

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