Employers must find ways to control their staffs’ addiction to tobacco under a proposed Health and Safety Commission code of practice on smoking at work.
The code will be legally binding in the same way as the highway code – so failing to follow it is not an offence in itself. But employers will have to demonstrate they have policies to stamp out smoking at work, or face future legal challenges. The proposed code will be sent to health and safety ministers for consideration.
HSC chairman Bill Callaghan said, “We are not proposing a ban on smoking in workplaces. It is rather a recognition of the need to protect those workers exposed to tobacco smoke and to build on existing good practice.”
The HSC has decided that pubs and bars can observe the Public Places Charter to comply with the code – but only for two years.
The Public Places Charter is a voluntary code agreed between the Department of Health, the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping, the British Hospitality Association and the Restaurant Association.
It applies to hotels, restaurants and pubs and includes a written policy on smoking, implementation of non-smoking areas, cleaning and ventilation and training and supervision. Its legal basis rests on the welfare provision of the Health and Safety Act 1974.
Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said, “We are rather puzzled as to why it will be two years before the ACOP code comes into force. There is some confusion about where the hospitality industry stands.”
The HSC approved code of practice went through a three-month public consultation last year, when 83 per cent of respondents favoured its introduction. Of those questioned, only 5 per cent wanted stronger regulatory action and 11 per cent rejected a regulatory approach.
By Richard Staines