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Sunday, 8 January 2012

Health and Safety Executive: smoke not listed as hazardous substance

Before Christmas I reposted Eddie Douthwaite's interview with local radio station Leith FM.

In this interview, Eddie discusses the claim that 'there is no safe level of secondary smoke' (07.49 minutes into the broadcast). He points out that the UK is failing to meet European standards on outdoor air quality while enforcing bans on smoking indoors. Specifically he refers to a document on the regulation of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, in which safe levels of all manner of toxic substances are referred to, and maximum standards of exposure are set. Yet the anti-smoking authorities persist in their doctrine that there is 'no safe level of secondary smoke'.

Eddie also asks why the legislation wasn't passed under the Health and Safety at Work Act. The Health and Safety Executive refers only briefly on its website to the issue of smoking at work, and its page on smoking at work refers to Action on Smoking and Health, ASH Scotland and other bodies external to HSE.

So does HSE really believe that passive smoking is a risk? If you go to the Homepage, the drop-down menu ('Choose a topic') includes everything under the sun ... but not tobacco smoke, or smoking. The list of industries featured does not include the hospitality industry, or the care industry, both of which include work sites that are exempt from the smoking ban under UK and/or Scottish law. Exemptions are on a limited scale, but realise that the list is all about regulating hazards at work including the regulation of hazardous substances. An ordinary person might conclude that smoke is a trivial issue compared with other substances that require to be regulated.

A government department that concludes that exposure to flour, water and cleaning agents requires caterers to be protected doesn't have much to say about secondary smoke. CateringEngineering carries hazards that are listed in more detail and the protective kit includes breathing apparatus. It does not say of any substance that there is 'no safe level', although it does indicate the gravity of specific hazards. Several other occupational groups are discussed. Engineering

We are now nearly six years into the Scottish ban and four-and-a-half years into the English and Welsh ones, and the United Kingdom's Health and Safety Executive does not appear to have an independent view on the subject. It also fails to mention any of the areas in which smoking is still carried out as a consequence of exemptions to the smoking ban as specific areas for concern. It does not recommend gloves or breathing equipment to counteract the effects of secondary smoke.

Is the HSE failing in its responsibilities? Or are the bodies that promote smoking bans overly assiduous in their efforts to persuade us that there is no safe level of secondary smoke, when such an outrageous claim has not been made about the most corrosive industrial toxins.

(I know what I think.)
Video thumbnail. Click to play
                                      
Eddie Douthwaite on Radio Leith FM

13 comments:

JJ said...

4 1/2 years with the English ban Belinda.

Belinda said...

thanks, corrected

Anonymous said...

Well done Eddie. Brilliant.
Chas

Anonymous said...

Schuman's Expert Witnesses Testify in Secondhand Smoke Trial

The plaintiff's expert witnesses spoke up on day three of David Schuman's case against his housing cooperative, Greenbelt Homes, Inc. (GHI), for its failure to prohibit the nuisance created by his townhome neighbors, the Popovics', secondhand smoke.

Courtroom and Plaintiff's Townhome Register Similar Carcinogen Levels

But, an incident from Repace’s testimony Thursday came back into play Friday during cross examination. Goecke pointed out that on Thursday, while demonstrating the carcinogen monitor, Repace had measured the concentration of carcinogens in the court room — which is in a smoke-free building — and the amount he recorded there was similar to what Repace had reported recording in Schuman’s townhome in July of 2011.

greenbelt.patch.com/articles/schumans-expert-witnesses-testify-in-secondhand-smoke-trial

david said...

I've attended a number of H & S site inductions since the ban. Smoking, of course, involves a naked flame and burning, so there is clearly a very real risk of fire regarding flammable substances. Basically, common sense dictates the rules. This has always been the case. Not withstanding this, there has never been any direct mention of the potential danger of ETS. Usually just a reminder of the ban, although some companies prohibit smoking on all sites, inside and outdoors - no good reason ever given for the latter.

Large construction companies, Balfour Beatty for example, carry out regular spot checks for alcohol and illicit drugs. Obviously plant operators shouldn't be stoned or drunk, and anyone showing positive results is dismissed. This applies to ALL employees and is particularly a problem for cannabis users, given that traces remain in urine for up to several weeks. Basically, a very good way to control cannabis use (a hidden agenda no less).

Belinda said...

thanks David:

risks of flammable material going up in flames existed also before the ban and shouldn't prohibit companies from allowing smoking in rest rooms or (restricted areas of) canteens. There is no common sense in banning such a provision. You are right of course that common sense dictates the rules but it seems to be more like the other way round lately!

david said...

The simple truth is that the HSE would not prosecute employers for permitting smoking inside, let alone outdoors. Why? Because is not their legal responsibility and (much more significantly) because they do not consider ETS to pose a sufficient threat to employees (at least to successfully prosecute). And they really should know if it does. In that case, they are deliberately misleading employees and employers alike by not listing it as a hazardous substance. Perhaps ASH should be demanding that they be called to account for their negligence?

Belinda said...

that might be an interesting exchange of views. There must be a reason that smoke (of which there is 'no safe level') is not yet listed by HSE as a grade one hazard: indeed it is 20 years since it was classed a class A carcinogen (http://www.davehitt.com/facts/epa.html). It looks to me as if HSE has washed its hands of the whole issue.

ISO Training said...

Indeed a very interesting fact. Smoke can be really hazardous to the health and should be included in the list.

Health and safety in the workplace is an issue that affects all businesses. Implementation of an occupational health and safety system has now been mandated by law in many countries. Introduction to OHSAS 18001 Training will help you to comply with the legislation and devise a system to ensure a safe environment in the workplace. It will also introduce a management system to help reduce the risk of accidents, litigation and downtime.

Belinda said...

My question really, ISO, is how come it isn't already included since there is supposedly 'no safe level' of smoke and the US declared it a class A carcinogen 30 years ago. HSE doesn't seem to consider it even worth a mention. It's not the lack of publicity, that's for sure.

david said...

'Smoke can be really hazardous to the health and should be included in the list.'

Er....

http://cleanairquality.blogspot.com/2010/10/air-quality-testing-of-secondhand-smoke.html

Marcova said...

Very nice post i like this...
Health and Safety

Anonymous said...

Similarly, welding smoke vs. secondhand smoke:

http://cleanairquality.blogspot.com/2007/03/double-standard-welding-smoke-vs.html