This is where we highlight specific technological solutions to typical facilities management problems. Email explanations you'd like to see to
5 December 2016 | Paul Adams
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, were first introduced into the European retail market in 2006, just one year before Britain's indoor smoking ban. Paul Adams, marketing manager at Hochiki Europe, explains what you should know about the use of these in the workplace
1. What's the law?
More than two million people in the UK are thought to use these devices regularly. Under the law, smoking tobacco in an indoor workplace is a criminal offence in Britain, regardless of employer attitudes. Breaches of the 2007 smoking ban can result in £50 to £200 fines for offending employees. But e-cigarettes are exempt from smoke-free legislation as no substances are burnt during the inhalation process.
2. It's not illegal, but should you allow it?
Employers can choose whether or not employees can use e-cigarettes in the workplace. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) notes: "Advertising for E-cigarettes focuses on them being substitutes for cigarettes and often they are used as an aid to stop smoking." Employers should consider the implications for staff who use them, as well as other employees. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown.
3. Impact on others
Currently, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) does not advise on prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace, but should an organisation prohibit their indoor use, the employer must ensure that e-cigarette users are not put at risk from secondhand tobacco smoke. Separate smoking and e-cigarette smoking areas are recommended.
4. Impact on smoke detectors
To understand how e-cigarette vapour will affect different smoke detectors, there needs to be a better understanding of the particle size and distribution of the aerosols produced. The Department of Chemistry at Monmouth University measured the particle size of e-cigarette vapour in an undiluted state using a spectral transmission procedure. The study found that the particles are typically between 0.25- 0.45 microns, which is actually comparable to tobacco smoke. E-cigarette particles that reach a smoke detector will be diluted, having mixed with saliva in the mouth, creating particle sizes more comparable to steam. This means that if someone is standing under a detector and creating a generous amount of e-cigarette vapour, then the density of particles entering the chamber may set off
5.Reducing the risk
Should your company allow the use of e-cigarettes indoors, there is a risk of a false alarm. Certain detectors can help reduce false alarms from both steam and e-cigarette smoke; there are detectors that contain a honeycomb-structured mesh designed to maximise smoke flow and improve tolerance against insects, dust and steam. If steam meets the mesh, it is forced to diffuse through it, resulting in the dissipation of vapour particles and reducing the risk of a false alarm