Smoking in the workplace

In the ACT, all workplaces are smoke free and employees have a general duty of care to ensure the safety of workers.

The most effective manner by which persons in control of a workplace can fulfil their legal obligations to ensure work safety by managing risk in relation to environmental tobacco smoke is through the implementation of a 'no smoking policy'.

The term 'environmental tobacco smoke' refers to the combination of sidestream and exhaled mainstream smoke in the atmosphere.

Smoke inhalation by non-smokers in this manner is, therefore, unintended or involuntary. Passive smokers run the risk of developing diseases caused by tobacco smoke without lighting up themselves.

Tobacco smoke inhalation concurrently with exposure to other hazards present in a workplace can compound the health effects of those hazards. For example, smoking is known to increase the risk of lung cancer for people exposed to asbestos and there are other interactions with cement dust, chlorine and irritant gases.

Outdoor workplaces

There is no safe amount of environmental tobacco smoke. Outdoor tobacco smoke levels are a relatively new area for research, however it is known that environmental tobacco smoke can still present a problem in outdoor areas. Research has shown that environmental tobacco smoke levels are reduced significantly at a distance of two metres from the source and are almost negligible at four metres. Ventilation and proximity to workers and the general public should be considered in the planning of a designated outdoor smoking area.

Designated smoking areas are only to be outdoors.

Outdoor areas of workplaces could include rooftops, balconies, verandahs, street frontages, car parks, loading bays, atriums and external areas adjacent to the internal workplace covered, for example, by a canopy or tent roof. A designated outdoor smoking area must not be covered and 75 percent or more enclosed. If a designated outdoor smoking area is covered and 75 percent or more enclosed, it is considered an enclosed place under the Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003 (the Act).

If a designated outdoor smoking area is part of a building structure, it must have a separate air circulation and supply system to the building's system. Furthermore, a designated outdoor smoking area must meet the same criteria as any outdoor workplace, specified above, and the air from this area should not contaminate the non-smoking areas.

Indoor workplaces

Indoor or other enclosed workplaces do not contain the same inherent safeguards against the effects of passive smoking as outdoor environments, i.e. movement of substantially fresh air. Accordingly, they do not replicate the outdoor environment in the sense of a constant and significant movement of substantially fresh air which may reduce the involuntary inhalation of other people's tobacco smoke. Smoking in enclosed public places is prohibited under the Act.

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