no smoking sign symbolCan E-cigarettes be Used at Work?

In the UK, it is illegal to smoke in an enclosed public area or workplace. Because of this employers, usually, only allow their staff to smoke on their premises in a designated smoking area which is outside. To abide by the smoking laws businesses are required to:

  • Display no smoking signs.
  • Enforce that people don’t smoke in shared work vehicles or enclosed work spaces.
  • Ensure smokers go outside, a staff smoking room is no longer allowed.

The consequences for not adhering to the law can incur penalties and fines.

Fines and Penalties

Employees can be fined up to £200 for smoking in the workplace. Businesses run the risk of being fined up to £2,500 if they do not stop people from smoking on the work premises. Failing to display no smoking signs could incur a hefty £1,000 fine for a business owner.

So what about e-cigarettes, do these laws and their penalties apply to them as well?

no smoking symbol superimposed on palm of hand

The Law on E-cigarettes

In a word NO! The law does not apply to e-cigarettes. Which leaves it down to employers to decide if e-cigarettes can be used on their premises or not. However, this decision is not as straightforward as it might sound. Careful consideration should be given as:

Many users of e-cigarettes do so as part of their bigger plan to give up smoking altogether. In this situation, it may be beneficial for the employer to show support to their employee.Not allowing e-cigarettes to be used on the premises may mean that a person trying to give up smoking would be sent to a designated smoking area with smokers. This could hinder their progress in giving up smoking.

Not allowing e-cigarettes to be used on the premises may mean that a person trying to give up smoking would be sent to a designated smoking area with smokers. This could hinder their progress in giving up smoking.

Other employees may find the vapour from e-cigarettes uncomfortable or annoying to put up with. There may be health risks to employees in the form of passive consumption. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown as yet, so there is a risk they could have the same long-term effects as passive smoking.

There may be health risks to employees in the form of passive consumption. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown as yet, so there is a risk they could have the same long-term effects as passive smoking.

A separate e-cigarette smoking area could be defined within the premises to keep all parties happy.

Clear no smoking and E-cigarette Rules

It is important that the company e-cigarette rules are made clear to all employees. The perfect way to do this is to include it into an existing smoking policy.

Signs should be displayed to show where smoking is permitted and where it is not. Ensure signs and instructions for both smoking and e-cigarettes are displayed to avoid any confusion.

It is important that employees are made aware of the consequences of non-compliance to all smoking regulations, so:

  • Make it clear that disciplinary action could arise from any unauthorised or the excessive taking of smoking or e-cigarette smoking breaks.
  • Communicate that disciplinary action could be the result of smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes in any unauthorised areas.
  • Remind employees that it is a criminal offence to smoke in any designated smoke-free area and could lead to a hefty fine.

Employers are urged to follow the rules and guidance given for e-cigarettes in the workplace and for them to be outlined in their smoking policy. This will enable disciplinary action to be taken against the misuse of e-cigarettes should the need arise.

Are your policies on e-cigarettes documented in your workplace? Let us know in the comments.


Workplace vision problems

Isaac Newton was a physicist who thought that, by staring up at the sun, he could better understand how the universe worked. Fortunately, he was not hired by any organisation to undertake such damaging research: this sun-staring routine was his decision entirely. However, research suggests that employers and organisations are regularly subjecting their employees to as much daily eyestrain as poor old Newton.

Poor lighting, the glare of visual display units, and a lack of regular breaks from the computer have combined to produce more business for opticians than any amount of witty advertisements ever could. The HSE recommends that, because modern work is so heavily reliant upon computers, employees should have short, regular breaks from daily work on a display screen.

Damage to vision in the workplace is a very real hazard. When staring at screens for hours on end, our tear ducts produce insufficient moisture to lubricate our eyes. The resultant ‘dry eye’ can cause grittiness, vision blur, and stinging [].

Moreover, the blue violet light emitted by the screens of smart phones, tablets, and desktop computers is potentially toxic to the back of your eyes, that projector screen where images and perceptions are resolved and understood. Over the long run, blue violet light can contribute to macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in adults []. In this sense, staring at screens is not so very different from staring directly at the sun.

Vision problems in the workplace can also have knock-on health-and-safety effects, since where employees are visually-impaired they are less able to assess risks and to perceive hazards. This can increase the incidence of tripping over wires, knocking over cups, and even falling down stairs.

Avoiding these hazards can be as simple as installing effective signage to warn employees of both the risks imposed by visual display units, and of HSE guidelines. The HSE itself suggests that the best way of tackling the problem is to give employees control over how and when they take their breaks from screen-based work. In these cases, bright, colourful, and clearly-phrased reminders can be crucial.


Other solutions can involve more constant office lighting that does not flicker and is not unpleasantly bright. Humidifiers can work wonders in the reduction of dry eye, and software to reduce glare on computer screens is readily downloadable for both Windows and Apple operating systems.

Since the HSE also recommends regular visual exercises, an effective form of sign could contain simple instructions for blinking, stretching, and focusing the eyes upon distant objects. One of these objects could be a bright sign or coloured sticker fixed to the other side of the office.

recycling image on computer screenHow your business can help protect the environment

No matter how small or large your organisation, all businesses have a responsibility to manage their impact on the environment. For some businesses, this could be as basic as ensuring your paper recycling bin has clear signage. For others it could be ensuring that environmental hazards such as chemical spillages are carefully managed. A good environmental policy can support your business’ corporate social responsibility as well as reducing costs and ensuring the good health and safety of your workforce.

Well chosen signage can make all the difference to the attitudes and actions of your employees and help ensure that they are doing all they can to minimise waste and avoid risks with more dangerous waste products.

It is always preferable to avoid producing waste in the first place; signage encouraging employees to avoid printing out emails or unnecessary documents can prevent large amounts of paper being used. Contacting the senders of junk mail or returning their letters with “return to sender” written on the back can also help reduce the amount of paper that requires disposal.

It is also wise to remind people that many items can be reused. Folders and binders are often disposed of simply because they are already labelled. Encouraging re-use of these and old pieces of furniture (as long as they remain safe) can also help reduce the amount of waste produced.

Where recycling is required, make sure that your bins are clearly labelled to separate the different materials. This will help ensure that the recycling centre is able to get the maximum value from your papers, cans and plastics. It is also a good idea to position your bins nearest to the areas where the waste is produced; for example, paper recycling next to the photocopier or can recycling in your kitchen area.

There will inevitably be some things which you simply have to throw away, although signage to encourage employees to think about whether they are using the correct disposal method may help challenge some of the lazier attitudes. When there are items that must be sent to landfill, minimise risks by using safety signage for dangerous chemicals or other waste materials. As an employer, you have responsibility for ensuring both the safety of your workforce and that the material is disposed of correctly. Therefore ensure that there are warnings reminding people to wear gloves or eye protection where necessary.

A business that is considerate of the environment saves money, protects its employees and the planet.

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Who is responsible for employee safety?

Safety at work should be a priority for any business, particularly in high risk environments such as building sites or warehouses, but who is ultimately responsible for wellbeing?


Employers are bound by law to take a certain amount of responsibility for employee safety. Every potential site that may be worked in (or visited) must be assessed for risk and the necessary provisions be put in place to reduce the risks posed by potential hazards. Employers can make use of signage to provide employees with safety information; for example, a simple warning sticker above a boiling water point can prevent burns and scalds, while appropriate signage directing employees to the fire exits can ensure that everyone is able to leave the building promptly in the event of an emergency. Use of signage is required under The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1981, and employers have a responsibility to ensure they have the correct signage in place to prevent accidents and injuries.


All employees have the right to be safe at work. They should, by law, be appropriately trained in the work they will be carrying out and they should also be trained in the health and safety practices of that workplace. These can be very specific, depending on the location and type of business. However, employees also have a responsibility to uphold their training and use the equipment or tools provided to them to keep them safe in the workplace. They may have a responsibility to wear special clothing to prevent injury, or they may have to follow signage to ensure that they avoid certain hazardous areas. The employer is unlikely to be liable for any accident or injury where risk assessments have been carried out and training has been given. Should an employee fail to adhere to instructions or training, they are responsible for any accidents or injuries caused.


Employee safety is the responsibility of both the employer and employee. It is impossible for employers to keep track of every employee, particularly if they often work off-site, therefore they must put the necessary provisions in place to ensure employees can look after themselves. It is an employee’s responsibility to follow signage and training to keep themselves safe in the workplace. Keeping the site safe using the appropriate signage is just one way to be proactive when it comes to workplace safety.