To Vape or not to Vape at work?How Does Vaping Legislation Impact the Construction Industry? Over the last few years vaping has increased in popularity across the globe. It is touted as a healthier alternative to smoking and has helped thousands of people cut down on cigarette smoking and in many cases quit altogether. The jury remains out on whether it is totally harmless or has side effects? The consensus seems to be that vaping is a step in the right direction when it comes to reducing smoking-related disease. However, where does vaping fall for employers and do employees have any rights? Are there any special considerations for the construction industry and what does the law say? This article addresses all these issues and provides food for thought for construction bosses everywhere. The Law Currently, in the UK, no legislation governs the use of e-cigarettes or vapes as they are known. This means that a lot of staff in all industries have assumed they can vape at work. In the construction industry, there have been reports of machine operators using their devices while the vehicles are in motion, which does not promote a particularly professional image and raises significant safety concerns. The current laws basically leave workplace vaping rules to each individual employer so what should you be doing? Health and Safety In order to promote a fair workplace, it makes sense to apply rules to all areas of your business from field workers to office staff and this is one issue where that is possible. Firstly, the vaping device contains a battery similar to a mobile phone, so if you have lockers for staff to leave mobiles while operating machinery on site, it would be reasonable to insist that vaping devices are left, after all, they could prove dangerous if crushed or dropped into working heavy plant. Vape Breaks Over the years we have seen changes to smoking laws which meant that smoking in public buildings became illegal and even outside there can now be restrictions. Generally, this meant workplaces, both onsite and office-based created smoking shelters outside and staff were given guidance on how they could be used. Some workplaces have no time restrictions provided the employee clocks out to go and smoke; others say workers can only smoke during lunch hours – again the logistics fall to the boss. Should vaping staff have to be the same? Is it reasonable for a vape to be used at a desk for example? Taking all staff into consideration One of the issues with smoking is passive smoking. The same should logically apply to those who also do not wish to vape, therefore desk vaping is probably an easy ban. While the water-based-vapour emitted may not be as dangerous, the long-term effects are not proven and it is generally considered that this should not be forced on those who do not wish to vape themselves. The liquids have different smells and can negatively impact on people who have breathing conditions, those who are pregnant or those with other health conditions, so it stands to reason a designated space is made available for vape breaks. However, consigning the vapours to the previously constructed smoking shelters is also a potential no-no. If someone has actively chosen to give up smoking, they then do not want to have the second-hand smoke from other staff when they are using their vape. This means you are looking for a second shelter or, potentially inside room, as vaping is not banned in public buildings. On-Site The same would apply to employees working on sites. It indeed does not present a professional image if members of the public see digger drivers vaping in clouds of vapour while working away, so offering a designated area for vape breaks is the most logical outcome. Again this would potentially need to be away from the smoking area which has to be outside. You begin to get a picture of why employers are finding this stressful. In many cases, it would be easier if the law made more explicit rules for vaping but in the absence, it is just down to each site to deal with. Be Clear While we have trails of paper that cover policies for health and safety, the best advice would be to create a vaping policy. The law does not prevent employees vaping at their desk, but neither does it prevent employers from banning the practice. Whether you chose to add the vaping policy to the smoking policy or have them stand alone, the critical point is to ensure that all staff are aware of the rules. It should also be clear that all staff, smokers, vapers and those who do neither, are being treated fairly and with respect. This saves potential dissension down the line. The bottom line is you do not have to make any provision for vapers, but if you have made provision previously for smokers the precedent has been set and you probably need to do something. The alternative, which is also perfectly legal is to ban all vaping and smoking on site or in any offices, buildings or vehicles associated with the business. Include Mobile Workers Finally, be sure to include company vehicle use in the policy too. We have already mentioned plant and machinery on site but what about the staff who may use a company car or van to get to and from locations. In many cases, the general consensus has been to ban all forms of smoking and vaping while driving company vehicles. Either activity can be seen as a distraction to due care and attention to the road which again, if they are driving branded cars does not project the best image to members of the public. As long as the rules are clear and distributed to all staff and new starters then currently the decision is entirely down to the employer.
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