Q&A - Protecting employees from passive smoking at a client’s home
Every employee is entitled to a smoke-free working environment. But what about employees whose place of work is also another person’s place of residence, such as care providers and domestic help workers? These are your obligations as an employer.
In short, you must do everything possible to ensure the wellbeing of your employees at work, even if their workplace is someone else’s home. A risk analysis forms the basis of that protection.
What does the legislation say about smoking at work?
Smoking has been banned in workplaces, offices, and social facilities since 2006. But the updated smoking law of 2009 contains a number of exceptions, including private homes. The Wellbeing Act of 1996 is therefore crucial for those employees working in clients’ homes.
This law states that employers must take all necessary measures to guarantee the wellbeing of employees at work. You need to address the risks at the source and inform your employees of the measures taken. Furthermore, the Wellbeing Act states that you must do this at every place where they work, including private homes.
What measures must you take?
If your employees work in an environment where the smoking ban does not apply, you must take this into account in your risk analysis. On that basis, you take prevention measures to prevent or minimise the risk of exposure to tobacco smoke.
- Ask the owners to ventilate their private spaces just before your employees arrive.
- Ask residents not to smoke while your employees are working there.
- Try to make these measures contractually binding for your clients.
In addition, you also make the risk analysis on an individual level. This way you take into account the specific situation of an employee, such as pregnancy or a particular sensitivity to tobacco smoke due to an asthmatic condition.
Employers are required to protect employees who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Therefore, in the event of pregnancy, you must immediately – without intervention or advice from the prevention advisor – adapt the working conditions so that the employee in question is no longer exposed to tobacco smoke.
It is best to carry out the risk analysis in consultation with the prevention advisor and occupational physician. They can make a correct assessment of the relationship between work and medical context and provide the best advice. All maternity protection recommendations are binding.
What rights do your employees have?
Every employee is entitled to a spontaneous consultation with the prevention advisor-occupational physician in case of health complaints that may be work-related. Employees can also raise these issues during periodic health monitoring.
How do you take action as an employer?
Complete a risk analysis for employees who may be exposed to tobacco smoke. Call in the help of your prevention advisor-occupational physician.
Furthermore, the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living has compiled a number of useful tips, a step-by-step plan, and other tools the brochure ‘Your home, my workplace’. More info on www.jouwhuismijnwerkplek.be.
Need help with your risk analysis?
Don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.