1. Have a plan and put it in writing

Employers (and the self-employed) have a legal obligation to assess workplace health and safety risks to employees, customers, partners and anyone else who could be affected by their activities. They are also required to have an effective health and safety policy and this must be in writing if there are five or more employees. Failure to comply with these and other requirements can result in fines, imprisonment and disqualification of directors.

2. Don’t blow it

The law offers special protection to employees who raise concerns about an employer’s health and safety failings and are dismissed or treated unfavourably as a result. There is no limit on the amount of compensation an employer can be ordered to pay where an employee proves they were unfairly dismissed for “blowing the whistle”. There is clearly a lot at stake for both employer and employee in a whistleblowing scenario and having a clear policy and procedure for raising concerns can help minimise risk.

3. To smoke is not to vape 

Smoking, defined as lit tobacco or any other substance that can be smoked when lit, has been banned in enclosed or substantially enclosed UK work premises since 2006. A policy that focuses on smoking is unlikely to cover electronic cigarettes as these do not technically burn, but rather emit an aerosol. In the absence of conclusive evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes, employers may want to consider amending their existing smoking policy to refer specifically to e-cigarettes and their use (or prohibition) in the workplace.