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A guide on how to control smoking around your workplace with signs

It’s been over 12 years since the smoke-free legislation was first introduced in England. Effective from 1st July 2007, it made it illegal to smoke in all enclosed workplaces, places with public access to obtain goods and services and in others places designated by Statutory Instrument in England. It came to light as a consequence of the Health Act of 2005, mostly surrounding the limitation of second-hand smoke inhalation and to avoid food contamination.

As a business owner, the importance of smoking can vary drastically. It may be a significant hazard around your workplace and something you’re seeking to minimise. Equally, it may pale into insignificance in comparison to other issues your workplace faces. However, this guide details how you can control smoking in and around your workplace with the help of signs.

What legislation governs smoking at work?

In line with the smoking ban mentioned above, enclosed or subsequent enclosed workplaces and public places must be kept smoke-free. An enclosed space is defined by having a ceiling or a roof with walls around at least half the perimeter. This is to ensure that everybody can pass through life without unwillingly becoming impacted by the effects of second hand smoke. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure this is upheld. By law, you must:

  • Display ‘No Smoking’ signs in appropriate places around the workplace and inside of work vehicles.
  • Take the most reasonable steps to ensure workers, customers and visitors understand this smoking restriction.
  • Ensure people do not smoke in the prohibited spaces.

It is important to note, this ban covers all workplaces where one or more people work. It also applies regardless of whether this work is paid or voluntary.

What is defined as ‘smoking’?

An individual is deemed to be ‘smoking’ when they are ‘in possession of a lit substance such as tobacco or any other substance that can be smoked.’ Items that can be smoked include traditional cigarettes through to pipes, cigars and water pipes.

How should I manage smoking as an employer?

It is your responsibility to create an appropriate smoking policy that fits in with your specific workplace. It is commonly recommended that this is created in collaboration with employees and their representatives to ensure it fits everyone’s requirements. This should dictate the ways in which your business will abide by the ban, the places where smoking is prohibited and the areas where smoking can occur.

How can signs be used to support my workplace smoking policy?

As an employer, you must consider how best to use signs around your workplace to manage smoking. With all use of signage in a business, it is important not to flood any environment with signs that could become confusing. Identify the areas where your smoking policy may become questionable. This could be in an outdoor recreational area, near entrances or other vital points throughout your business. By doing this, you will be better able to judge where information about your smoking ban needs to be available.

Simple ‘No Smoking’ signs can be used in all working environments and follow widely accepted directives to ensure universal understanding. They come in both landscape and portrait formats, allowing you to install it anywhere you see fit. There are more detailed options if you feel that further information is needed, including this ‘No Smoking Except In Designated Room Sign.

Are E-Cigarettes and Vaping covered by the smoking ban?

According to the law, e-cigarettes are not covered by the ban. Therefore, it is your choice as an employer as to how your policy covers this form of smoking. Many people use these as a way of giving up traditional smoking so it is important to take this into account when aligning them with your current policy. It may be that you wish to create a designated vaping area or have workers gain approval from higher management before using them.

However you decide to tackle this, we have signs designed to support you. For full bans, our ‘No Electric Cigarettes’ sign can be fitted anywhere around your building. We also have all encompassing No Smoking/No Electric Cigarettes’ signs that combine two messages into one. And, if you’re considering creating designated smoking areas, we have landscapelarge landscape and more detailed options available here too.

Do I need to allow for smoking and vaping breaks?

According to the Working Time Regulations here in the UK, all employees are entitled to one, unpaid 20 minute break during a working day of longer than 6 hours. Whether you choose to order any more on top of this is under your discretion. In terms of specific smoking breaks, there is no statutory rights for these.

Where do I go from here?

The best way to deal with smoking is to create a policy as detailed above. This will provide clear direction and instruction to all workers as to where your business stands in terms of smoking. There are many different templates you can find online to help you complete this comprehensively, such as this one and this one. And, UNISON, the public service union, has a wealth of knowledge available about the smoking ban to help you support workers and create a structured environment surrounding smoking.