Page 4281 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2005
workplace we have a separate regulatory occupational health and safety framework to address these issues.
Inevitably there is always some overlap, but the issues are not inherently in conflict. It must be remembered that there are many workers, not only those in the hospitality industry, whose workplaces fall outside the scope of the smoke-free public places legislation, and their needs must also be considered. That is why we have systematic consideration of these issues for these workers through the occupational health and safety laws and policies.
Where smoking in unenclosed public places gives rise to occupational health and safety issues, it will be the responsibility of ACT WorkCover to ensure that these issues are dealt with consistent with obligations of employers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and other legislation. WorkCover has already provided, and will continue to provide, information and advice to employers on how best to meet their occupational health and safety obligations. In a media release on World No Tobacco Day this year, the WorkCover commissioner stated:
Employers are required to provide healthy and safe workplaces, and allowing employees to be exposed to tobacco smoke through passive smoking breaches this obligation.
Our legislation in relation to smoke-free public places does nothing to override or undermine these fundamental requirements of employers. WorkCover has also advised employers that, in order to protect staff, bar service points should not be located in areas where smoking occurs. The commissioner has noted:
Employers have a continuing occupational health and safety obligation, and need to give careful consideration when making any alterations to their buildings in response to the 75:25 rule as to how these safety obligations will be met.
I know there are varying views on the details of this regulation, but the facts remain. Ending the current exemption regime and eliminating smoking from indoor areas represents a major step forward in terms of health protection and public health. Gaming areas, bar areas and other areas inside hospitality venues where smoking currently occurs will, from 1 December next year, become totally smoke-free. As a result, thousands of Canberrans, both patrons and staff, will be protected from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke in these areas. There will be a significant overall benefit to the community from reductions in both active and passive smoking.
The government is extremely proud of what is to be achieved through this regulation and the principal act. We are talking about minimising people’s exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in enclosed public places throughout our city for the first time ever. We are talking about providing environments that encourage and support people who are trying to stop smoking. We are talking about establishing non-smoking social environments that discourage the uptake of smoking by young people. ACT public health officers have already been visiting premises and explaining to employers and proprietors what the new requirements will mean and what they will need to do to comply. The information and education awareness process will increase during 2006 in the lead-up to, and following, the implementation date of 1 December.