The following list of steps to take in introducing a policy in the workplace is summarised from the National Heart Foundation of Australia's guide 'Going Smokefree'.(57) Readers interested in pursuing this issue in greater detail are referred to this publication, as well as the Further Reading List in Appendix V. Organisations listed in Appendix I are also able to provide advice.
Companies and organisations of all types and sizes are introducing a smokefree working environment. In organisations where there is little disagreement about introducing a policy, the change may be made simply; other organisations may need to devise more complex policies and introduce changes gradually. Introducing a policy generally requires moving through the following stages:
1. Take the right approach: be positive. Remember that the issue is not whether people smoke, but where they smoke. The aim of the policy is to achieve a workplace with clean air, of which smoking is one component.
2. Be informed: research the issue. Understand the health, legal and economic aspects of smoking in the workplace, and wider issues related to smoking in the workplace.
3. Gain the support of decision-makers: get management commitment. This might include briefing on occupational health and safety issues, as well as other aspects of smoking in the workplace from step 2.
4. Get representation: form a working party. This group should comprise representation from all major groups in the organisation. The role of the working party is to prepare policy, including a strategy for implementation, staff consultation and education. The working party continues to monitor the policy and its implementation.
5. Increase awareness of the issue: inform the workforce. All levels of the organisation need to be briefed about the reasons for introduction of the policy and the process of policy development.
6. Assess the current situation: consult and collect information. Then an appropriate policy can be developed. Note: consultation does not mean debating whether a policy is going to be introduced. This is non-negotiable, on health and safety grounds.
7. Design the policy: the type (ideally totally smokefree), the phase-in period, the education and consultation process, provision for support and assistance for smokers, and outlining of procedures for non-compliance.
8. Write the policy, including rationale, timeline, specific smoking restrictions during the phase-in period, assistance to smokers, and procedures for non-compliance. Other considerations might include: sale of cigarettes (from a canteen or vending machine), mention of the policy in job advertisements, signposting of smoking restrictions in public access areas, and co-operation with other workplaces which share premises.
9. Announce the policy, taking into account the best timing for your organisation. It may also be appropriate to seek some publicity for the change.
10. Educate and provide information, using a variety of strategies to suit different groups within the organisation.
11. Support and assist smokers. This includes allowing phase-in periods and adjustment breaks, providing contact people to discuss problems with and advice on coping without cigarettes, quit information and access to quit courses if desired, and incentives for those who want to quit.
12. Ensure compliance. While every effort should be made to assist the employee in understanding and complying with the policy, smoking policy should not be regarded as being different from any other occupational health and safety policy.
13. Monitor, review and evaluate the policy. Feedback from within the organisation will help in gauging problem areas. Changes may be needed, but should not compromise the goal of protecting non-smokers from tobacco smoke.
The benefits of introducing a policy may be summarised as follows:(58)
Reduced risk of litigation/compensation costs by preventing staff from developing passive smoking caused illness
Reduced absenteeism from smoking and passive smoking caused illness
Reduced cleaning and maintenance costs (carpets, furnishings, machinery affected by smoke)
Healthy, progressive image
Reduced fire risk
Possibly reduced insurance costs
Healthier, cleaner and safer working environment
Reduction/removal of tension between smokers and non-smokers
Raised awareness of health risks of smoking
Possible assistance for smokers to quit
It is important that policies on smoking be enforced in the same way as other health and safety policies. In a widely publicised court case which occurred in Melbourne in September 1991, a worker who was dismissed without notice from a glue factory for smoking in a designated no-smoking zone was awarded $195,000 in damages by the Industrial Division of the Federal Court. The case was unrelated to argument about passive smoking, but was an industrial safety matter concerning explosive and inflammable solvents. The point at issue was breach of a federal award provision covering unfair dismissal.(59) The company had not engaged in the stipulated process of consultation and warning. However, while the Court may have been correct in upholding the complaint against unfair dismissal, it is ironic that individuals who have died as a result of passive smoking in the workplace have received a small fraction of the compensation awarded in this case.(60)