Ban workplace smoking?
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SMOKING AT WORK, SAYS BUSINESS. BUT TREAD CAREFULLY, SAYS LAWYER
Although most workers support the right to light up at work, a Croner survey reveals that the majority of employers are in favour of a blanket ban.
Croner, one of the UK's leading providers of business information and advice, carried out the survey on its www.healthandsafety-centre.net portal.
It found that 68% think a ban would be a fair way of achieving a smoke-free workplace, although half of these agree it would be difficult to implement. Tobacco smoking in the workplace may result in health and safety hazards for the workforce. Employers must follow practical guidelines to minimise the risk of fire, discomfort to others and health risks. But banning workplace smoking altogether is currently not compulsory and depends on company policy.
A complete workplace smoking ban would prevent employees smoking at workstations, rest areas, communal areas such as the canteen or kitchen, as well as outside in company grounds and car parks. Trevor Davies, senior health and safety consultant at Croner, which is part of Wolters Kluwer UK, says, "If a blanket ban on smoking in the workplace was made law tomorrow, today's BBC poll suggests there would be significant resistance. What's more, business is clearly very aware of how difficult it would be to implement.
"However, providing a smoke-free workplace needn't be difficult or controversial if employers follow simple guidelines to assist them in setting the right smoking policy for their organisation."
"While most organisations have a clear policy about prohibiting smoking in hazardous conditions, such as around explosives, other specified flammable substances, or food, fewer are clear on how to meet the needs of both non-smokers and smokers who share the same workspace.
"Smokers are not entitled to a smoking area, but non-smokers are entitled to an environment free from tobacco pollution. One way to achieve this is to introduce a complete ban throughout the organisation. Employers could also consider providing a separate room for smokers, or a smoking section in a
"A policy should be drafted which clearly states if employees are permitted to smoke, and where. Employees must be consulted before drafting a policy - simply banning smoking could constitute constructive dismissal for some smokers."
Croner offers the following advice
when drafting a smoking policy:
"Judging by our survey the debate
over smoking remains as controversial as ever," says Trevor.
"But guidelines are available so that employers can ensure the
health and safety requirements for employees are met fairly and within
TREAD CAREFULLY WHEN STUBBING OUT SMOKING, WARNS LAW FIRM
The results of a high profile campaign show the tide has definitely turned against smoking in the workplace – but employers should tread carefully when trying to stub out this age-old problem.
That’s the warning of John Howe, partner with Yorkshire law firm John Howe & Co, in the light of recent results from the Big Smoking Debate – an initiative organised by public health agencies in various parts of the country to find out views on smoking in public places
They show that, in London almost three quarters of people who took part in the Big Smoking Debate want to see all workplaces smoke-free. The same figure for the East Midlands is 82 per cent.
John says: “When it comes to the smoking-at-work debate, employers are treading a very fine line and need to think very carefully before taking any action.
“Smoking is a serious issue they can no longer afford to ignore. For instance, there is now a consensus in the medical profession that second hand smoke, or SHS, is harmful to health and can lead to heart disease and cancer in those subjected to prolonged exposure.
“As workers spend much of their time in the workplace, it is here they are most vulnerable to such exposure. In the US, litigation cases have already been brought against employers by non-smoking staff in respect of exposure to SHS, and it could take only a single test case to open the floodgates in this country.”
For this reason, John thinks a sensible, well thought out non-smoking policy is the only realistic way forward in the long-term for UK employers.
But he sounds a note of caution: “If some smoking staff are accustomed to smoking at their workplace whenever they feel like it, it is important - and may be required by law - to introduce the measures only following adequate notice, consultation and explanation.”
He adds: “Overall the best approach you can take is to behave responsibly and treat your workers equally. A good smoking policy will include some consultation with your employees. It comes down to drawing up a smoking policy which deals with problems of passive smoking while taking into account the feelings of all members of staff.”