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How to help workers ditch the durries

Posted by: The Happy Worker
Tags: smoking , policy , workplace ,

Remember the days when smoking was allowed on aeroplanes, in cinemas and even in hospitals? A lot has changed since then and we’re all much more aware of the health risks associated with smoking and passive smoking. Despite this, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease worldwide and there are still more than a quarter of a million adults in Western Australia who smoke daily. 

So if smoking, like drinking alcohol, is a personal choice why should employers get involved in helping their workers quit? Workplaces in Western Australia are bound by legislation that prevents smoking in enclosed workspaces, including vehicles, but there is a lot more than legal obligation to encourage employers to help their workers ditch the durries. The Cancer Council WA lists an impressive range of benefits including the obvious ones like increased productivity and improved general health of workers, plus some less obvious benefits like decreased early retirement due to ill health, lower risk of fire damage, explosions and other smoking-related accidents and reduced cleaning and maintenance costs. 

A workplace that is committed to helping their workers give up smoking and to realising the benefits of a smoke-free workplace should be aiming to do several things. The first of these is to demonstrate genuine commitment and senior management support by putting in place a smoke-free workplace policy. This needs to be supported by specific strategies like smoking cessation courses offered at the office (like the ones run by Fresh Start) or allowing workers time to attend an external course during work hours. 

It is also important for employers to recognise the reasons why it might be difficult for someone to give up smoking – work stress, boredom, fly-in fly-out or shift patterns might all be a factor. For some professions this is more of an issue than others. Workers in the transport and storage industry, for example, have a smoking rate of 29% compared to the national average of 22% and those in manufacturing and the hospitality sector also have increased smoking rates. 

The work environment is another consideration. Smoke-free areas, including outdoor areas where smoking is not permitted, should be signposted. If smoking is permitted in certain areas of your worksite, designated smoking areas far away from the main work area should be organised. Workers can also be provided with information on the benefits of quitting through posters and brochures displayed throughout the workplace. 

When an employer implements a smoke-free workplace policy what they are ultimately demonstrating is that they care about the wellbeing of their workers – both the smokers and those at risk from passive smoking – as well as visitors to their workplace. This can only enhance their corporate image and improve morale.

The happy worker :)

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