Smoking is a habit that can have serious repercussions in the workplace. Aside from threatening the health of the smoker, cigarettes also affect everyone around the smoker. Second and third-hand smoke are real threats to those sharing the same air as a smoker, and the health complications that can develop from it are well-documented.
Allowing smoking in your workplace is becoming something of a liability as we learn more about how smoking affects people. If your business hasn’t banned smoking yet, you might want to after you learn about some of these legal risks. From lawsuits to worker’s compensation claims and everything in between, we’ll cover the risks you could face as a business.
Smoking Is Dangerous and Destructive To Property
Smoking is a habit that doesn’t benefit anyone. In fact, it can actually put everyone around the smoker at risk of developing similar health complications as the smoker! Second-hand smoke is nothing to brush off. According to the CDC, there is no risk-free exposure to cigarette smoke. Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous to children, but it’s also harmful to adults.
Let’s say second-hand smoke didn’t actually cause any harm, what about the effects cigarette smoke has on personal property? The smoke can damage clothes, create burn holes, and those cigarette butts rarely find their way into the proper container. Did you know that a large percentage of litter is actually cigarette butts?
The bottom line here is that there are no benefits to smoking. It damages health and property, not to mention the causes of legal ramifications for businesses. There’s no reason to allow it any longer on your business’s grounds.
Unsafe Workplace Lawsuit
If you allow smoking on business grounds, you could be at the mercy of an unsafe workplace lawsuit filed by an employee. Allowing smoking exposes employees to harmful second-hand smoke, which can cause cancers, diseases, and other health complications. If it’s found that exposure in your workplace to second-hand smoke is behind an employee’s newly-developed health complications, you may lose the lawsuit.
In most jurisdictions, employers are legally obligated to provide a safe workplace. This means you’ll need to take reasonable measures to provide proper safety equipment and protect employees from unnecessary risks. Second-hand smoke falls under the category of “unnecessary risk” because it’s entirely preventable.
As the employer, you have the means to control exposure to second-hand smoke on your property. You can implement a smoke-free workplace policy, which will effectively end all smoking in the workplace and save your business the liability of allowing smoking.
Worker’s Compensation Premiums
If a worker files a worker’s compensation claim in the name of second-hand smoke exposure, you could be looking at higher premiums in the future. It’s one thing to have an accident that injures an employee and causes a claim to be filed, but it’s another thing entirely when the employee is exposed to something that could have been prevented.
Since second-hand smoke can cause allergic or asthmatic reactions, it’s entirely possible that an employee could suffer from a reaction on the job; and this falls under worker’s compensation. The best route to take is to ban smoking altogether on the job site. You’ll save yourself money, time, and legal trouble, and you’ll ensure you’re taking the right steps to keep everyone at your business safe.
Workers with disabilities may require special accommodation in order to reduce their exposure to second-hand smoke. You have a legal and moral obligation to disabled employees to protect them from harm while on the job, and that includes danger from second-hand smoke.
Encourage A Healthier Lifestyle
Aside from the legal ramifications that smoking on the job can incur, it also creates an unhealthy workplace. Every year, employers lose billions of dollars to unhealthy workers in the form of lost productivity, time off, and performance issues. Encouraging a more healthy lifestyle not only helps the employee(s), but it also helps the business to prosper.
Banning smoking is the first step. You can allow certain tobacco alternatives (like Black Buffalo) that don’t present the same risks as cigarettes. You can offer incentives, as many employers do, for employees who give up smoking altogether (such as bonuses or PTO).
Healthier employees mean a healthier business! When you show you care about your employees’ health, you’re making a statement of empathy and compassion, which they will appreciate. Take care of your workers, and they’ll take care of you in return.
The Bottom Line
There’s really no good reason to allow smoking in the workplace. It puts other people at risk, can damage property, it’s unhygienic, and the legal ramifications are something you won’t want to spend time and money on. The solution is simple: disallow smoking at your place of business permanently, and work to encourage a healthier lifestyle in your workers.