Industry sector

Industrial sector workers are still exposed to tobacco smoke and e-cig aerosols

We are calling on the WA Government to expand WA’s Occupational Health and Safety laws, following a survey that found nearly half of respondents were still exposed to tobacco smoke and aerosols. electronic cigarettes in the workplace.

As part of October’s Safe Work Month, our Make Smoking History team surveyed 472 adults who work in a variety of industries, including mining, construction, healthcare, transportation and community services.

Our Make Smoking History manager, Libby Jardine, said that despite new laws to protect WA’s community health, there still seems to be low compliance and awareness of regulations.

“In 2019, the WA Government introduced laws to further protect the health of the WA community, including banning smoking within five meters of a public entrance in an enclosed public place and within 10 meters from air conditioning outlets,” Ms Jardine said.

“However, two in five (42%) of adult WA employees surveyed said they were still exposed to smoke and aerosol drift entering buildings through doors or windows, in and around entrances and walkways, and in common outdoor areas while working.

“Although WA’s occupational health and safety laws and regulations prohibit smoking in an enclosed workplace, they do not cover outdoor workplaces, so that is the gap we would like to see closed. “

Second-hand smoke causes coronary heart disease, lung cancer and strokes in non-smokers. Ms Jardine said many employees were concerned about exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke or e-cigarette aerosols in the workplace, noting that the long-term effects of e-cigarette use on health had not yet appeared.

“Employees are exposed to second-hand smoke and aerosols when working in mining and they find it difficult to avoid exposure in mining camps,” she said.

“Employees working in the health, aged care and community services sectors are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke from staff and customers who smoke near doors and entrances.

“Employees in the transportation industry noted that they were frequently exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke in outdoor loading areas and near building entrances.

“This happens even though the Regulations state that employers must ensure, as far as possible, that people in an enclosed workplace are not exposed to second-hand smoke or any other by-product of the smoke. tobacco or nicotine.

“While over the past few years the WA Government has focused on COVID-19, the health of workers continues to be put at risk by tobacco and related products. Governments and policy makers must work to eliminate these harmful workplace exposures.

“Everyone should have the chance to earn a living without second-hand smoke or aerosols.

Survey results:

  • Two in five (42%) WA adult employees who responded to the survey said they had been exposed to tobacco smoke or e-cigarette aerosols in the workplace.
  • A quarter of employees (24%) say they are occasionally exposed to tobacco smoke at work, while a further 14% are often or always exposed to tobacco smoke at work.
  • One in five employees (19%) said they were occasionally exposed to e-cigarette aerosols in the workplace, while a further 9% were often or always exposed to e-cigarette aerosols at work.

Employees have described being exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke and e-cigarette aerosols at work through:

  • Drift of smoke/aerosol entering buildings through doors or windows.
  • Colleagues, clients or customers smoking or using e-cigarettes in common outdoor areas; and
  • People smoking or using e-cigarettes in and around entrances and walkways, meaning non-smokers were exposed to second-hand smoke and aerosols when entering and exiting buildings.

Employees were asked if they had any thoughts on exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke or e-cigarette aerosols in the workplace.

  • Among employees who commented on tobacco smoke, 47% were concerned about the health effects of passive smoking, describing concerns about cancer, as well as respiratory problems, such as cough or asthma.
  • Among employees who commented on e-cigarette aerosols, 46% were concerned about the health effects of breathing other people’s e-cigarette aerosols. Respondents expressed concern about harmful ingredients in e-cigarettes and noted that the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use have not yet emerged.
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