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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 08 July 2007

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Vehicle smoking ban could leave employers fuming

DESPITE efforts to comply with the national smoking ban, many employers across the UK risk leaving themselves open to prosecution according to experts.  The national smoking ban, which became law on 1 July 2007, prohibits smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces. To meet new regulations, employers have been removing indoor smoking areas, building outdoor smoking shelters for employees and posting 'no smoking' signage throughout workplaces. However, many businesses are failing to address smoking in vehicles, which must also comply with the Health Act 2006.

Brian Rogers, operations director at national law firm Lewis Hymanson Small, comments:- "While employers are clear about what changes they need to implement to make their workplaces smoke-free, they are uncertain about how the new law affects smoking in vehicles. Further confusion is being caused by questions of vehicle ownership and how this affects the enforcement of no smoking policies.  Vehicles that are being used for work purposes must be treated as an enclosed space and smoking banned in them, irrespective of whether the vehicle is owned by the employee or the business."

Under the Health Act 2006, vehicles that are primarily used for private purposes will not be required to be smoke-free. The Act requires vehicles to be smoke-free at all times if they are used to transport members of the public and in the course of paid or voluntary work by more than one person - regardless of whether they are in the vehicle at the same time.

Rogers adds:- "Employers should not nit-pick through who is allowed to smoke in a vehicle and when they are able to do so. This will leave them exposed to litigation and fines of up to £2,500. Instead, they should ensure that any vehicle transporting work personnel is kept smoke-free and promote no smoking in all lease and fleet vehicles."

Rogers advises that employers take the following steps to promote no smoking in company owned vehicles:-

Remove the vehicle's ash trays and cigarette lighter

Post no smoking signs on vehicle dash boards, but if the vehicle has more than just the driver, it needs a sign anyway!

Post signs in car parks reminding employees of smoke-free vehicle regulations.  But again enclosed car parks already require signs!

For vehicles owned by employees, employers should issue them with smoke-free guidelines which can be downloaded from smokefreeengland.co.uk.

Southport Access For Everyone (S.A.F.E.) which has been helping disabled people for the past 15 years, who experience access problems in Southport, is having to move their meeting place due to newly imposed charges at Mornington Road Resource Centre.

Therefore our next meeting will be held at the Southport Fire Station Community Room next door to the Fire Station, at the usual time of 7pm.

Anyone wishing to share their problems in this field is welcome to attend.   Contact for further details; Val Carr, vice-chairman on 01704 567046.

Stubbing out smoking on public transport

Substantially enclosed bus shelters – shelters with a roof with doors or openings less than half of the total area of the walls (see picture 1). Signs will be displayed for the public.

NEW rules and regulations which came into force on July 1 preventing smoking across the public transport network.  From 1 July, smoking will be illegal in all premises and vehicles open to the public or used as a place of work.  Under the new laws smoking will continue to be prohibited on all buses, enclosed areas of bus stations, on board all trains, in some areas of railway stations, in all Mersey ferries terminals and on vessels and in all Merseytravel buildings.

The new rules also extend the ban to enclosed bus shelters with a roof and walls.

Fines for smoking in smoke free places range from £30 to up to £200 if prosecuted through the courts.

Shelters with only a canopy roof are not affected by the smoking ban and will not display a sign (see picture 2).

Cllr Mark Dowd, Chair of Merseytravel said:- “This new smoke free legislation will mean that thousands of people in Merseyside will be protected from the dangers of second-hand smoke every day. It will be a great day for the health of the UK and for Merseyside when England joins the rest of the UK in going smoke free.  That is why we’re committed to supported this new legislation and ensuring it is followed throughout the public transport network.”

Neil Scales, Chief Executive and Director General of Merseytravel, said:- “Most of our buildings and vehicles are already smoke-free, so the laws won’t make a huge difference to public transport users.  We have a duty to impose these restrictions just like every other business in the UK and in order to comply with the new legal obligations that means we will be putting signs in every ‘smoke free’ place on the network including substantially enclosed bus shelters, which fall under the new legislation.“

On Merseytravel-subsidised bus services and privately operated commercial bus services, it will continue to be the driver’s duty to prevent smoking.  On trains and at rail stations, it will be the train operator’s responsibility to enforce the smoking ban.  Smoking bans on board the Mersey Ferries remain unchanged by the new legislation.

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