Charity raises a smoke alarm

An anti-smoking charity is warning UK employers that they face the threat of
legal action if they fail to protect workers from passive smoking.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said "bosses are no more entitled to
allow smoke in the workplace than they are to allow asbestos or coal
dust", and any employer not taking steps to protect staff from the health
risks is vulnerable to action under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

ASH is campaigning for bars, clubs and restaurants to be made smoke-free
zones, and has joined forces with legal firm Thompsons in issuing warning
letters to the hospitality industry.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) responded by saying that it
recognises the trend towards non-smoking environments and would follow public
opinion if there were widespread support for a total ban, but that was not the
case at the moment.

Miles Quest, BHA spokesman, said: "We encourage a voluntary scheme for
the trade to sign up to, where businesses can indicate whether smoking is
allowed or discouraged in a building."

On the potential health risks to people working in the hospitality industry,
the BHA’s standpoint was clear-cut: "Nobody is forced to work in the
industry, people are free to work elsewhere and potential employees should
already be aware of the dangers of passive smoking."

However, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said
that employers are required to consider the potential damage to the health of
their workers and develop specific smoking policies.

Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser, said: "employers in the
hospitality sector need to take the threat of legal action seriously. They must
ensure they make every effort to limit employees’ exposure to smoke through
good ventilation and through designated non-smoking areas, as well as by
responding to staff complaints."

By Mike Berry

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