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Guidelines Part 4

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Guidelines Part 4 - Environmental tobacco smoke

G4.81/4.82 Controlling exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS)

Issued March 28, 2002; Revised May 1, 2002; Editorial Revision October 2004; Revised March 31, 2008; Revised June 18, 2008; Revised January 1, 2009; Revised May 12, 2009

Regulatory excerpt
Sections 4.81 and 4.82 of the OHS Regulation ("Regulation") state:

4.81 Controlling exposure
The employer must control the exposure of workers at any workplace to environmental tobacco smoke by

(a) prohibiting smoking in the workplace,

(b) restricting smoking to a safe outdoor location that is a minimum of 3 metres from a doorway, window, or air intake of an indoor workplace, subject to section 4.22 (3) of the Tobacco Control Regulation, B.C. Reg. 232/2007, and

(c) prohibiting working in an indoor area where smoking is allowed under section 4.23 (2) (a) or (b) of the Tobacco Control Regulation, except as permitted in section 4.82 of this regulation.

4.82 Exceptions
(1) An employer must ensure that a worker does not work in an indoor area where smoking is permitted under section 4.23 (2) (a) or (b) of the Tobacco Control Regulation, B.C. Reg 232/2007, unless

(a) the worker must enter the area to respond to an emergency endangering life, health or property,

(b) the worker must enter the area to investigate for illegal activity, or

(c) the tobacco smoke has been effectively removed.

(2) If necessary to prevent tobacco smoke from entering a workplace, a room where smoking is permitted under section 4.23 (2) (a) of the Tobacco Control Regulation, B.C. Reg 232/2007, must be provided with a separate, non-recirculating exhaust ventilation system that

(a) is designed in accordance with expected occupancy rates,

(b) maintains adequate air flows from non-smoking to smoking areas,

(c) discharges directly to the outdoors, and

(d) meets all other requirements for a smoking lounge specified in the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers Standard 62-1989, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality.

Purpose of guideline
This guideline

  • Provides an overview of sections 4.81, 4.82, and related requirements of the Regulation that control smoking in the workplace, in the context of the provincial Tobacco Control Act and Tobacco Control Regulation (TCAR), which came into effect on March 31, 2008
  • Describes the requirements of the provincial TCAR
  • Provides information on some municipal bylaws related to tobacco smoking
  • Provides information about electronic cigarettes and related products

1. Application of the Regulation Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) Requirements (sections 4.81 and 4.82)
The basic requirements for controlling worker exposure to tobacco smoke are found in sections 4.81 and 4.82 of the Regulation.

Section 4.81 establishes the basic framework for controlling exposure, by prohibiting smoking in the workplace, restricting it to a safe outdoor location or, in certain circumstances, prohibiting work in an indoor area where smoking is permitted. In turn, subsection 4.82(1) provides the exceptional circumstances where a worker may work in an indoor area where smoking is permitted under the TCAR. Subsection 4.82(2) lays out the requirements necessary to prevent tobacco smoke from entering a workplace for the cases where smoking is permitted under the TCAR. These obligations for the design and operation of indoor designated smoking areas apply where smoking is permitted under the TCAR (for example, for residents in community care facilities and for certain motel/hotel rooms). Workers must not enter such areas except as permitted by subsection 4.82(1).

The requirements of sections 4.81 and 4.82 are intended to prevent workers from being exposed to airborne tobacco smoke at work. They do not apply to the non-airborne components of ETS, such as tar residues, or to the odour associated with a designated smoking area, which may remain after ETS has dissipated from the air.

Other requirements of the Regulation on smoking: There are a number of requirements in the Regulation that explicitly or otherwise have the effect of prohibiting smoking, whether indoors or outside. Examples of these provisions are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Some other provisions that control smoking
Part Section  
Chemical Agents and Biological Agents 5.27(1), (2)
5.84
Ignition sources
Prohibition
Substance Specific Requirements 6.56 Personal hygiene
Blasting Operations 21.40(1) Ignition sources prohibited
Underground Workings 22.40(b)
22.74(1)
22.154
Battery charging stations
Restrictions on ignition sources
No smoking
Oil and Gas 23.7(1) Fire hazards
Laboratories 30.17(2) Personal protection

WorkSafeBC prevention officers will apply other provisions of the Regulation that control smoking in the workplace, such as those outlined in Table 1, as well as requirements in Part 4 (General conditions) of the Regulation on indoor ventilation, where related to the issue of smoking. For example, under section 4.72 (Design and operation) of the Regulation, indoor ventilation systems must be operated in a manner that meet criteria including provision of an adequate supply of outdoor air. Typically this will mean keeping air intakes open. The TCAR permits smoking on a patio of a hospitality establishment under certain conditions, including closure of any air intake that is mounted in the wall between the patio and the indoor area of the facility. The employer needs to comply with both sets of requirements, and has the option of either prohibiting smoking on the patio or moving the air intake away from it.

Note: The responsibility to enforce the requirements of the TCAR lies with the applicable health authorities.

2. Requirements of the provincial Tobacco Control Act and Tobacco Control Regulation (TCAR)
The provincial government has enacted new provisions, under the auspices of the Minister of Health, to control smoking under the TCAR, which became effective March 31, 2008. Some of the main provisions are outlined below (additional information about the TCAR is available at: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/tobacco/index.html)

  • In workplaces and public spaces which are "fully or substantially enclosed," smoking is prohibited. These workplaces and public spaces include offices, industrial establishments, restaurants, bars, pubs, night clubs, and bingo halls. The prohibition also applies to all vehicles used for business purposes, such as buses, taxis, and work or commercial trucks. In addition, it applies to a workplace located in a private dwelling during any period in which a person performs services in return for compensation.
  • A place is "fully or substantially enclosed" if it has a roof or other covering, and more than 50% of the nominal wall space is enclosed by any material that does not permit air to flow easily through it. The "nominal wall space" is the area determined by calculating the length, in metres of the perimeter of the building, structure, vehicle, or place, and multiplying it by 2.7 metres. (Note: Ministry of Health officials advise that the nominal wall space concept is best applied to walls that are more than 2.7 metres high, when covered by a roof.)
  • Smoking is also prohibited in transit shelters, and in common areas of apartment buildings, condominiums, and dormitories.
  • Exemptions from the prohibition on smoking indoors have been made for
    • a person who is in care or resident in a community care facility, assisted living residence, or hospital, who may smoke in a room designated for smoking by the facility
    • a person who is registered as a hotel/motel guest who may smoke in the room or building in which the guest and the guest's party, if any, have been assigned exclusive accommodation
    • the ceremonial use of tobacco by Aboriginal people
  • Smoking is prohibited within 3 metres of doorways, windows, or air intakes, unless permitted in certain circumstances on patios (See also Guideline G4.81(b) Safe outdoor location) and for transit shelters.
  • For patios used in conjunction with a public place such as a restaurant, bar, casino, or bingo hall, smoking is permitted only if all the following conditions apply:
    • the predominant use of the public place is to sell food or beverages or both, or as a casino or bingo hall
    • any doorway between the public place and the patio is closed at all times while the patio is in use except when someone is passing through it
    • any window or air intake between the patio and the public place is closed at all times when the patio is in use
    • the patio is not fully or substantially enclosed. (Note: Ministry of Health officials advise that where a patio has a roof over only part of it, then for the purposes of applying the test of full or substantial enclosure, the patio can be considered to have two sections, one with a roof over it and one without) (See also Guideline G4.81(b) Safe outdoor location)

3. Municipal requirements
A number of municipalities have adopted provisions which go beyond those of the TCAR, particularly related to patios and distances from openings into buildings. Information on two jurisdictions is provided below.

Capital Regional District (CRD): The CRD (a federation of 13 municipalities and 3 electoral areas) has banned indoor smoking as follows:

  • The ban includes locations in, on, over, or upon any part of a business building, structure, or vehicle and any area of the business place where either or both food and beverages are served and/or consumed. In effect this bylaw prohibits smoking on all patios that are part of a public entertainment facility such as bars and restaurants.
  • It prohibits smoking in all vehicles used for business purposes, which includes commercial, industrial, educational, crown agency, and government undertakings.

The CRD does not establish prescribed distances for smoking near doors, windows and air intakes.

City of Vancouver: Vancouver has banned smoking in circumstances such as

  • A customer service area, which means a partially enclosed or unenclosed area, including a balcony, patio, yard, or sidewalk, that is part of, connected to, or associated with a business or use in a building or premises that includes the service of food or alcoholic drinks to customers or other persons for consumption on site
  • Any area within 6 metres of the perimeter of a customer service area
  • Any area within 6 metres, measured on the ground from a point directly below any point of any opening into any building, including any door or window that opens, or any air intake
  • In a vehicle for hire, or on public transit such as a school or passenger bus, ferry, or rapid transit

4. Electronic smoking products
Electronic cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or related products are electronic devices (usually battery operated) which provide a nicotine solution to their users. These devices fall under the federal scope of the Food and Drugs Act, and are not currently approved for sale in Canada as they have not been evaluated for their safety, quality, or efficacy by Health Canada.

Concerns about the use of involving electronic smoking products can be reported to the Health Products and Food Branch Inspectorate by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-800-267-9675, or by writing to:

Health Products and Food Branch Inspectorate
Health Canada
Address Locator: 2003C
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9

G4.81(b) Safe outdoor location

Issued March 28, 2002; Revised May 1, 2002; Editorial Revision March 2005; Revised March 31, 2008; Editorial Revision June 18, 2008; Formerly Issued as part of G4.82(1) and (2) - Re-issued as G4.81(b) January 1, 2009

Regulatory excerpt
Section 4.81(b) of the OHS Regulation ("Regulation") states:

The employer must control the exposure of workers at any workplace to environmental tobacco smoke by

(b) restricting smoking to a safe outdoor location that is a minimum of 3 metres from a doorway, window or air intake of an indoor workplace, subject to section 4.22 (3) of the Tobacco Control Regulation, B.C. Reg. 232/2007,

Purpose of guideline
This guideline discusses what is meant by a "safe outdoor location" as it applies to areas in which workers may take smoke breaks, if permitted to do so by the employer.

Safe outdoor location
For the purposes of section 4.81(b) "safe outdoor location" refers to a location that is safe with regard to any of the hazards identified in the Regulation. For example, such a location will have a safe means of access and egress, will not expose users to vehicle traffic, and will be clear of any flammable materials. The potential for hazards such as cold stress should also be considered. There is no obligation under this section for the employer to provide amenities such as canopies or seating for worker comfort, although the employer may do so.

The safe outdoor location should be arranged or located in such a way that smoke from the outdoor area does not readily enter any indoor work area; for example through a doorway, window, or air intake. (Note: provincial and applicable municipal legislation specify various minimum distances from such portals.)

Typically, the outdoor location may be a ground surface, floor, or deck area; and a roof or awning may cover it. Any structure, including a temporary structure, such as a tent that significantly obstructs the movement of air may bring the area within the meaning of an indoor area. For example, an area that has natural airflow obstructed on more than 2 sides by the presence of windbreaks, such as walls, fences, or other adjacent structures or objects may be deemed to be indoors for the purpose of this section. Low height walls (half height or less) or chain link fencing or similar open structures that minimally obstruct airflow will normally not be considered as a windbreak.

While the above information describes a typical configuration for a safe outdoor location, an employer may choose another design that minimally obstructs natural airflow and does not allow the accumulation of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). For example, a freestanding, gazebo-type structure, with a roof and a low-height wall that surrounds all sides of the seating area, may be acceptable. A very narrow type of structure with wind breaks on 3 sides, but with large openings at top and bottom on all sides, may also be effective at preventing ETS accumulation. Note that the configuration of an outdoor area will need to work in a variety of atmospheric conditions - for example, from calm to windy days.

G4.82(1) Entry into indoor areas where smoking is permitted

Formerly Issued as part of G4.82(1) and (2), and G4.82(3) - Re-issued as G4.82(1) January 1, 2009; Editorial Amendment October 22, 2010

Regulatory excerpt
Section 4.82(1) of the OHS Regulation ("Regulation") states:

An employer must ensure that a worker does not work in an indoor area where smoking is permitted under section 4.23(2)(a) or (b) of the Tobacco Control Regulation, B.C. Reg. 232/2007, unless

(a) the worker must enter the area to respond to an emergency endangering life, health or property,

(b) the worker must enter the area to investigate for illegal activity, or

(c) the tobacco smoke has been effectively removed.

Purpose of guideline
This guideline

  • Notes the indoor circumstances where smoking is permitted under the Tobacco Control Act and Tobacco Control Regulation (TCAR).
  • Discusses circumstances under Regulation section 4.82(1) in which a worker may enter an indoor area where smoking is permitted under the TCAR.
  • Provides detailed information on what needs to be done to clear indoor air of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).
  • Provides a strategy for home care service providers to consider to help ensure worker safety in the circumstances where the occupant(s) are smokers.
  • Discusses control measures for entry in the event of emergencies or investigation of illegal activities.

Indoor locations where smoking indoors is permitted
Under the provisions of TCAR section 4.23(2), smoking indoors is only permitted in the following circumstances:

  • A person who is in care or resident in a community care facility, assisted living residence, or hospital, who may smoke in a room designated for smoking by the facility
  • A person who is registered as a hotel/motel guest who may smoke in the room or building in which the guest and the guest's party, if any, have been assigned exclusive accommodation
  • The ceremonial use of tobacco by Aboriginal people

Also, the TCAR does not apply to a private dwelling, except during the times when a person performs services in the dwelling in return for compensation. Thus it permits smoking prior to the worker's entry. (Note: The TCAR also permits indoor smoking if it involves the ceremonial use of tobacco e.g., in relation to a traditional aboriginal cultural activity).

Worker entry into an indoor area where smoking is permitted
In a situation where smoking is permitted by the TCAR, Regulation section 4.82(1) permits a worker to enter the area only in three circumstances where

  • The worker must enter the indoor area to respond to an emergency endangering life, health, or property
  • The worker must enter the indoor area to investigate for illegal activity
  • The tobacco smoke has been effectively removed

Entry in the event of emergencies or investigation of illegal activities
Sub-sections 4.82(1)(a) and (b) are intended to permit one or more workers to quickly respond to an investigation for illegal activities or an emergency of a magnitude that outweighs the risk to the worker resulting from short-term exposure to tobacco smoke. Exposure to ETS is not typically an immediate danger to life or health. It is a hazard that exposes workers to a danger that can cause a chronic health effect. Entry in these cases may be for reasons such as

  • An occupant may require immediate attention by a medical practitioner, caregiver, or first aid attendant
  • Activation of a fire alarm may result in the need for workers to enter a room designated for tobacco use to locate the source of the problem
  • A mechanical system failure, such as a ruptured water pipe, inside a room designated for tobacco use may require immediate attention
  • A serious accident or incident may require immediate investigation
  • A hazard that poses a serious risk to workers or others may require immediate attention
  • Illegal activity may necessitate immediate access by an appropriate regulatory authority for the purpose of collecting evidence or otherwise discharging their statutory duties

If it is necessary for a worker to enter an indoor smoking area in these circumstances, the exhaust ventilation system should, when practicable, remain in operation while they are inside and smoking should not be allowed. Workers should minimize the time spent in the area if there is residual exposure to tobacco smoke. In order to achieve these outcomes, it is important that employers review their emergency entry plans with staff and train them accordingly.

Effective removal of tobacco smoke
As a result of Regulation section 4.82(1), except in the rare situation of an emergency or an investigation for an illegal activity, the employer cannot assign or allow work duties that would require a worker to enter an indoor area where smoking is taking place or if ETS has not been effectively removed.

The question for employers and entry workers is: when is it safe to enter a room after smoking has stopped? The following information is provided for three circumstances: a room designated for tobacco use meant for multiple smokers; a hotel room; and a private dwelling. The information is based on general principles of exhaust ventilation and estimations of time required for evacuation of air within a defined space.

1. Rooms designated for tobacco use:
As per Regulation section 4.82(2)(1), if necessary to prevent tobacco smoke from entering a workplace, a room designated for tobacco use within a community care facility, assisted living residence, or hospital must be provided with a separate, non-recirculating exhaust ventilation system that

  • is designed in accordance with expected occupancy rates
  • maintains adequate air flows from non-smoking to smoking areas. A minimum of 60 cfm (0.03 cubic metres per second) per person of outside air needs to be supplied to the room, and at least 70 feet per minute air velocity must be maintained through wall openings.
  • discharges directly to the outdoors.

The tobacco smoke load in a designated room can be substantial when a number of smokers are present at the same time. As a guide, before a worker is allowed to enter the designated room, the air of the room should be allowed to experience a minimum of 4 air changes following cessation of smoking. This will remove about 94% of the original load providing the layout of the room allows good ventilation flow-through and the effectiveness of the exhaust ventilation system is not compromised by problems such as short-circuiting. Note that each subsequent air change results in only marginal improvement in air quality. It is estimated it would take another 3 air changes to achieve 99% removal of contaminants.

Note: Information pertaining to ETS and ETS-free areas can also be found in Clause 5.18 of ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2007 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality.

2. Hotel guestrooms:
The Hotel Guest Registration Act defines "hotel" as including an inn or building in which private rooms are maintained for the accommodation of the public. The tobacco smoke load for hotel guestrooms will likely be less than for a typical room designated for tobacco use since typically only one or two persons utilize a typical hotel guestroom, and for a relatively short duration. As a result, due to the significantly lower initial tobacco smoke load, 2 air changes after cessation of smoking prior to entry of the worker is considered reasonable.

Note: ETS from hotel guestrooms should not migrate to worker-frequented areas. A guestroom in which smoking is allowed needs to be provided with a dedicated exhaust system to prevent recirculation of ETS-contaminated air through the general heating or HVAC system, and the room needs to be maintained under negative pressure relative to adjacent, worker-frequented areas such as hallways. If these requirements cannot be met, a "no smoking" status needs to be assigned to the guestroom.

Note: Information pertaining to ETS and ETS-free areas can also be found in Clause 5.18 of ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2007 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality.

3. Protecting home care service workers from ETS:
The TCAR and the Regulation do not apply to a private dwelling, except during the times when a person performs services in the dwelling in return for compensation. Examples of such services include home care, appliance repair, home cleaning, and real estate services. Home care service work is a particular concern given that services are often provided on a repetitive basis, and in close proximity to the occupant of the dwelling. The OHS Regulation does not prohibit smoking prior to the worker's entry.

The home care service employer must ensure that measures are taken to protect these workers from exposure to ETS. This can be achieved through a written agreement drawn with the employer and the client and/or the owner of the residence, outlining the measures and conditions that will be required to be in place before the home care worker can enter the residence. The agreement should cover the following:

  1. The obligation to prohibit smoking inside the residence for at least 1 (one) hour before the home care worker commences his or her duties. Where exhaust fans are available in a residence, such as those found in kitchens or bathrooms, it is important to ensure at least one fan is operated during this time, provided it does not result in uncomfortable cooling. Persons wishing to smoke can do so outdoors during this period of time.
  2. If prohibiting smoking is not practicable, the agreement should restrict smoking to a room that is provided with an exhaust fan. The worker will not enter this room. This restriction would begin one hour before the worker's arrival and be maintained while the worker is in the residence.
  3. When a worker arrives at the residence and finds the client and/or the owner has not respected the agreement regarding smoking, the worker can do the following:
    • Arrange to reschedule the visit for another time when the client or owner of the residence will respect the agreement. The worker would report the incident to the supervisor or employer.
    • If it is not practicable at the time of visit to reschedule to a later time (such as in situations where there is an urgent need of care), the worker would insist that smoking be prohibited while in the home and would advise the client and/or owner that further service may be not be undertaken if the client and/or owner of the residence does not comply with the agreement. The worker would report the incident to the supervisor or employer.

      Note: This exception would apply only to workers that are not at undue risk due to exposure to ETS due to a pre-existing medical condition (e.g., the worker has an immunological reaction to ETS, or to one or more of its components). It is not appropriate for an immunologically compromised worker to enter the residence in these circumstances.

If it turns out that the client or owner consistently violates the contractual agreement, then the employer is in a position to suspend provision of services or cancel the contract.

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Disclaimer: The Worker and Employer Services Division issues Guidelines to help with the application and interpretation of sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and with divisions of the Workers Compensation Act that relate to health and safety. Guidelines are not intended to provide exclusive interpretations but to assist with compliance. The Workers' Compensation Board of B.C. ("WorkSafeBC") does not warrant the accuracy or the completeness of the online version of the Guidelines and neither WorkSafeBC nor its board of directors, employees or agents shall be liable to any persons for any loss or damage of any nature, whether arising out of negligence or otherwise, which may be occasioned as a result of the use of the online version of the Guidelines.