Working Brief: Employers should make staff aware of smoke-free legislation
It is now well over a year since smoke-free legislation was introduced in Northern Ireland. Since April last year it has been against the law to smoke in most enclosed or substantially enclosed workplaces and public places including work vehicles and public transport.
Premises which are used as a place of work must be smoke-free all the time:
l if they are used as a place of work by more than one person (even if the people who work there work at different times or only occasionally); or
l where members of the public may visit to seek or receive goods or services from the person or people who work there, even if members of the public are not always present.
If only part of the premises is open to the public or used as a place of work then only that part of the premises is required to be smoke-free.
The legislation also applies to vehicles which are used for work by more than one person (even if the people who work there work at different times or only occasionally).
In a recent case in Wales a painter and decorator was fined for smoking a cigarette in his own van. He was told that because his van is his place of work he had broken the smoking laws.
Smoking is only permitted in vehicles used for work purposes that are for the sole use of the driver and are not used as a workplace by anyone else either as a driver or passenger.
All those responsible for smoke-free premises and smoke-free vehicles must take reasonable steps to ensure that employees, customers and other visitors do not smoke.
Any person responsible for smoke-free premises must make sure that at least one no-smoking sign is displayed in a prominent position at each public entrance. Free signage is available for download from www.spacetobreathe.org.uk.
Under the legislation those responsible for smoke-free premises must take reasonable steps to stop people from smoking, including informing smokers that they are committing an offence.
If someone is smoking in smoke-free premises their attention should be drawn to the ‘no-smoking’ signs, they should be reminded they are committing an offence and should be politely asked to stop smoking.
If the person smoking is an employee and the warning has been ignored, the employee should be asked to leave the premises and if they refuse the normal disciplinary procedures should be implemented.
A record of all such incidents should be recorded. Similar procedures should be adopted to deal with smoking in smoke-free vehicles.
Failure to comply with smoke-free legislation is an offence. Individuals who fail to comply with the law may be liable to a fixed penalty of £50 and a maximum fine on conviction of £1,000.
The person in control of any smoke-free premises could be fined a fixed penalty of £200 for failing to display no smoking signs and a maximum fine on conviction of £1,000.
The person in control of any smoke-free prem
ises could be fined up to £2,500 for failing to prevent others from smoking in those premises.
The legislation is enforced by environmental health officers within district councils. Enforcement officers have the power to enter premises to check if the law is being upheld and will assess if those responsible for the smoke-free premises have taken all reasonable precautions to avoid people smoking.
Further information on the smoke-free legislation is available from your local CAB or from |www.spacetobreathe.org.uk or Environmental Health Departments in District Councils.
Siobhan Harding is an Information & Policy Officer with Citizens Advice.