Get Your Butts Under Control

I was recently at a facility and there were cigarette butts everywhere and not to mention evidence of smoking inside the material handler. When a half-million-dollar piece of equipment is on the line and people’s safety is in question, do you really want to risk it for such an allowance? 

Yes, happy workers are important — especially in a time when talent is at a premium —but you also don’t want to leave anything to chance. You should provide convenient designated smoking areas (DSAs) that are comfortable, but not too comfortable. Keeping the designated smoking areas free of combustible materials and having a way to extinguish the cigarette butts via cigarette receptacle is imperative.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of designated smoking areas. While not required in all states, it’s recommended. Consider the fact that smoking causes 100,000 fires a year globally. The data tells us that U.S. fire tolls have fallen when smoking decreased. Further reducing smoking can substantially reduce fire and disaster tolls.

No doubt workplaces are not immune to this risk, especially when sites have flammable material. With that in mind, I’m aware of some recyclers that have created smoke-free workplaces. This means the only acceptable place for an employee is to smoke in their vehicle. However, as stated above, you have to consider the labor climate at the same time. Are you willing to fire an otherwise good employee over a violation or potentially alienate good people who might be assets to your team?

I know you care more about your employees than you do your property. That’s why you should encourage them to quit or reduce smoking.  Take a caring approach, as exposures are associated with chronic diseases such as lung cancer, coronary heart disease, and stroke. Secondhand smoke can also cause adverse reproductive effects, including low birth weight, when mothers are exposed during pregnancy.  Explain the risks of smoking to your employees and engage them in controlling this fire and health risk.

For further recommendations and guidance on tobacco use in the workplace, see this resource. And don’t forget that your fire prevention plan should take into account occupational hazards such as smoking.

For safety’s sake,

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