Passive smoking: can a code help to curb?

The HSC’s proposed Approved Code of Practice (Acop) on
passive smoking at work will require all employers to devise non-smoking
policies. The hospitality industry has already dealt with the challenge of
keeping smokers and non-smokers happy. So is a code of practice the best
solution to the dangers of passive smoking? Compiled by Lucie Carrington

Douglas Cameron
Director of safety risk management, Hilton UK and Ireland

At Hilton, we’ve decided not to wait for the Acop but to get the ball
rolling now. I have prepared some draft proposals that have been well received
by the executive and will result in a Hilton policy on passive smoking in
public areas.

I expect the Acop to state that employers have a duty to carry out a risk
assessment on passive smoking. They will have to consider location, sources of
smoke, quantity, type of smoke, length of time employees are exposed to smoking
and other relevant circumstances.

It will list a hierarchy of measures that employers could take, from a
complete ban on smoking in public places, to ensuring that there is adequate
ventilation.

We will also have to take into account employees with respiratory diseases
such as asthma and bronchitis.

At Hilton we have carried out a risk assessment in five hotels. We’ve asked
ourselves where and when people smoke, and how bad does the smoke get?

Most hotels already have a number of non-smoking bedrooms, so we think we
have cracked that nut. But we will probably re-emphasise to managers that it is
Hilton policy and may decide on a minimum percentage for each hotel.

In reception areas and bars and serveries we will ask our guests to refrain
from smoking, because that’s where most of our employees are working. There
will also be separate smoking and non-smoking areas for customers. Smoking
areas will be furthest from reception and serveries as a further protection for
staff. Restaurants will also have "smoking" and
"no-smoking" areas.

Signage is also an important part of our policy. We want non-smoking areas
to be clearly signed, but the signs on the market are a bit aggressive. We are
working on something that is a bit more branded.

Finally, managers will be expected to carry out on-going risk assessments to
monitor employee exposure to passive smoking. For example, we think our public
spaces are well ventilated already but we must check all our hotels.

Ultimately, we want a policy that is clearly understood so that when the
Acop comes in all we will have to do is pick up on a few blips.

Su Beacham
Director of personnel and training, J D Wetherspoon

We are already ahead of others in the pub industry. We introduced no-smoking
areas eight years ago when our own research found that tobacco smoke was
putting people off going to the pub.

Everyone said we would go bust – but we’re still here.

The safety of our workforce is paramount. We believe our standards are very
high and do not think our staff is at risk from passive smoking. One-third of
every Wetherspoon’s pub is non-smoking, there is no smoking at the bar and the
ventilation is well above government standards.

We don’t think the Acop will demand more of J D Wetherspoon, but it will
demand more of others in the industry.

Bob Singfield
Principal personnel officer (policy/ employee relations), Denbighshire
County Council

Anything that raises the profile of the dangers of smoking – probably the
most serious health issue today – is a good thing. And the Acop will help to do
that, although I would like to see legislation restricting smoking in certain
public spaces, including workplaces.

In the course of many years as a personnel officer I have seen the most
serious ill health in workers as the result of smoking. Employers have a duty to
help employees stop smoking.

It is not just altruism. Sooner or later a significant employer will be held
to blame for passive smoking related illness in its staff and find itself
facing a massive fine.

Bob Cartwright
Director of communications, Bass

The Government seems to understand that there are special needs in the
hospitality industry – we are not just dealing with people at work and have
customers who want to smoke. However, the Acop appears to cut across
initiatives taken two years ago when the industry negotiated a "Public
Places Charter" with the Government to address this issue. It’s causing
some confusion.

Bass has been working on the Charter, which is to be introduced into our
pubs over a couple of years. It allows for five types of approach, from smoking
everywhere to no smoking anywhere. We have introduced no smoking at the bar in
many of our pubs. Staff appreciate it and customers understand why we are doing
it.

Martin Couchman
Deputy chief executive, British Hospitality Industry

The Acop as it was proposed would have been a disaster for our industry –
but there have been many discussions since. The "Public Places
Charter" we have signed should count as compliance with the Acop. We want
to see the Acop and the charter aligned. It’s important because of the issue of
employers’ liability cover. Will cover still be available to employers who
allow smoking? If there is a successful case on passive smoking insurers will
get touchy about it. Nor would we want the Acop to be inconsistent with
courtesy of choice – aimed at accommodating customers preference for a smoking
or non-smoking environment.

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