Thousands of Australians are working in areas contaminated by highly toxic, carcinogenic tobacco smoke, according to a number of health and employee organisations.
Employees currently at risk from tobacco smoke exposure in their workplaces include gaming workers, food and alcohol service staff, other hospitality employees, musicians and other entertainers, and corrective service officers.
The warning came from SmokeFree Australia, a coalition of 11 health and employee, organisations, which criticised Safe Work Australia (SWA) for its lack of action over the issue with regards to the Model Work Health and Safety laws.
“We made submissions to the National Occupational Health and Safety Review in 2008, addressed a National OHS Summit in 2008, and made written submissions to Safe Work Australia’s draft regulations and codes of practice in 2009 and 2011,” said SmokeFree Australia coordinator Stafford Sanders.
“Despite all this input, SWA has not established a code of practice for dealing with tobacco smoke. Asbestos, in contrast, is covered by two SWA codes of practice.”
Sanders said that tobacco smoke doesn’t rate a mention among SWA’s listing of toxic and hazardous chemicals – despite being considered by environmental contamination experts as a top-level contaminant.
Tobacco smoke contains over 250 toxic compounds including 43 known human carcinogens, some of these in the highest grade of carcinogens.
Australia has ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which commits treaty parties to protect all people from second-hand smoke including in workplaces.