It's the law: Smoke-free premises

New regulations prohibiting smoking in the workplace come into effect on 1 July this year.

On 1 July the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006 will come into force. In conjunction with the smoking provisions of the Health Act 2006, the regulations will have the effect that most work premises must become smoke-free.

The regulations extend to premises that are used as a place of work by more than one person, or which are accessible by members of the public seeking or receiving goods or services (for example, a shop).

They are applicable at all times of the day or night, and not just when premises are open for business. They cover all people using the premises, including employees, workers and volunteers.

The regulations provide that all areas of a work premises that are enclosed or substantially enclosed must be smoke-free. Premises will be deemed to be substantially enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof and do not have an opening in the walls, or an aggregate area of openings in the walls, that is more than half of the area of the walls that constitute the perimeter of the premises. An open-air bar would not be considered to be substantially enclosed, but a sporting arena with a roof probably would be.

Remember existing regulations

Employers should also note that they remain subject to duties under the existing health and safety legislation.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. Employers should continue to seek to minimise the health risks posed to employees by their working in smoke-filled environments, particularly those who may have particular sensitivities to smoke.

Employers should implement policies and procedures to ensure they meet the new regulations before 1 July.

• Emma Burrows, a partner and head of the employment group at Trowers & Hamlins solicitors.

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