Fuel and fire don’t mix. Smoking and workplace productivity is an area of contention in all workplaces, but managing smoking in the downstream petroleum industry is particularly fraught. This week’s HR Highlight will explore the latest on the cost of smoking in the workplace, as well as the approaches for managing it in members businesses.

Cost of Smoking at Work

In Australia more than 20 per cent of men and women are smokers, and the need to feed the nicotine addiction has a real cost to employers in terms of lost productivity, presenteeisim (being at work, but unproductive) and impacts on sick leave and rosters. A recent study out of the USA puts the figure at over $4,000 AUD more per employee on average in time lost to breaks and productivity lost to thinking about or planning breaks alone [Estimating the Cost of a Smoking Employee.].

Fuel and Smoking

In the downstream petroleum industry smoking at work has an added layer of complexity, that of workplace safety.

Whether in a retail, wholesale or transport setting fuel and fire do not mix. Smoking in hazardous zones is a serious and manageable danger. Many businesses are inclined to go for SmokeFree Workplace Policies as a way of managing the productivity as well as the safety elements. However, ACAPMA reminds Members that smoking is a legal pastime that results in genuine addiction. When implementing a SmokeFree Policy members should be very cognisant of the timing, implementation and possible discrimination impacts.

Any transition to a SmokeFree Workplace Policy should allow for a phase in time, to ensure that staff are informed of the coming policy change, the implications on their work day, the repercussions for deviation from the policy and to have a voice in the development and implementation process. Further workers will require time to change current habits to comply with the coming policy change.

It is opportune for most members to also offer QuitLine assistance to staff during the transition, however even this needs to be handled delicately and with respect for the fact that smoking is a legal and accepted behaviour.

Accept and Plan For Realities

In many cases a SmokeFree Workplace Policy is only half of the solution. ACAPMA reminds members to asses and plan for the realities of employing smokers. While on break employees are free to leave the premises and may smoke at this time. Often such behaviour pushes smoking to boundary lines and can cause issues with neighbours, and may increase the issues of presenteeism and break creep. In a retail environment, where breaks are typically crib (at the console) in nature, this places the employee in a situation where their focus may be pulled towards their next break rather than on the safe operation of the site. In these instances it is important to create time in the schedule, and / or a safe place to address the requirements of the smokers on staff.  If a plan is not put into place an ad hoc, worker driven system will emerge, and it is unlikely that such emerging systems will be in the favour of the business.

Here to Help

ACAPMA members are reminded that the ACAPMAlliance Workplace Relations Professionals are available to assist with policy creation and implementation. For more information just call 1300 160 270.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of the ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals its free for members. ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $550 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts. Click here to apply for ACAPMA membership.