Work Vehicles and Transportation: Information for Employers
Requirements of the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990
Information for employers covering:
- the smoke-free law relating to ships, trains, aircraft, taxis, specified work vehicles and passenger service vehicles
- complaints relating to workplace smoking
- offences and fines.
Three-quarters of New Zealanders do not smoke, but many are exposed to the significant health risks of second-hand smoke. The Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 extends the protections for workers, volunteers and the public, particularly against exposure to second-hand smoke. The intention is to send a positive message about a smoke-free/auahi kore lifestyle being both desirable and the norm.
Key areas for employers
From 10 December 2004 all indoor workplaces (with some limited exceptions, which are outlined below) will be required to be 100 percent smoke-free.
A ‘workplace’ is an ‘internal area’ occupied by an employer, and usually frequented by employees or volunteers during the course of their employment. This does not include a motel or bedroom or suite in a hotel, or a dwelling house occupied by the employer.
An internal area, in relation to any premises or vehicle, means an area within or on the premises or vehicle that, when all its doors, windows, and other closeable openings are closed, is completely or substantially enclosed by:
- a ceiling, roof or similar overhead surface, and
- walls, sides, screens or similar surfaces, and
- those openings.
There are some places that are specifically excluded from the definition of ‘workplace’, and therefore the general restrictions on smoking in workplaces do not apply. These include passenger accommodation on ships and trains, and individual staff accommodation on ships and trains.
These exemptions are all based on the principle that the excluded area is a person’s home, either temporarily or permanently. However, this does not prevent the owners or managers of these places from choosing to make this accommodation 100 percent smoke-free.
Smoking is prohibited in all internal areas of a ship with the exception of individual passenger cabins and cabins occupied by sole employees or volunteers. The outdoor areas (eg, open deck areas) are not covered by the workplace prohibition on smoking.
Smoking is prohibited in all internal areas of a train with the exception of individual passenger cabins and cabins occupied by sole employees or volunteers. Any outdoor areas are not covered by the workplace prohibition on smoking.
Smoking is not permitted on internal flights carrying passengers.
No person (including the passenger/s and driver) shall smoke at any time in an operating taxi, whether it is carrying passengers or not. This includes travelling between fares and waiting time. Drivers must smoke outside the taxi unless the taxi ceases to be an operating taxi, for example, when it is being used as a private family car.
Specified work vehicles
The provision of specified work vehicles in which smoking is permitted is not mandatory, but is allowed for. An employer may permit smoking in a work vehicle provided that:
- the public does not normally have access to the work vehicle, and
- the written consent of all regular users of the vehicle is obtained.
This means that it will be up to the employer to decide whether they will allow smoking in work vehicles, even if the written consent of all users is obtained. If at any time a person wishes to withdraw their consent, they must do so by giving the employer written notice.
Small passenger service vehicles:
Smoking is permitted in small passenger service vehicles (i.e. shuttle buses) that carry less than 12 people, provided that the driver and every passenger in the vehicle agrees that smoking shall be permitted.
Passenger service vehicles:
Smoking is not permitted in passenger service vehicles (ie, buses) that carry more than 12 people.
Smoking is prohibited in the following areas within an enclosed travel terminal:
- booking areas
- passenger queuing areas
- passenger waiting rooms
- passenger lounges.
These obligations are complementary to employers’ existing obligations under the health and safety in employment legislation; and complementary to ‘good employer obligations’.
Complaints relating to workplace smoking
The Act sets out the process for complaints relating to workplace smoking.
- Complaints relating to workplace smoking can be made to the employer of the workplace, or the Director-General of Health, and must specify the particulars of the complaint.
- The employer has 20 working days to investigate whether a breach of the Act has occurred, and to try to resolve the complaint. If the complaint was received by the Director-General, it will be referred to the employer in the first instance.
- Where the breach is on the part of the employer, the employer shall try to settle the complaint, or give an assurance that satisfies the complainant that there will be no repetition of the cause of the complaint.
- Where the breach is on the part of an employee or volunteer, the employer should obtain from the employee or volunteer an assurance that there will be no repetition of the cause of the complaint.
- The representatives of the employees in the workplace are entitled to be present at any meeting called by the employer for the purpose of resolving the complaint and avoiding future cause for complaint.
- If within 40 working days after receiving the complaint the employer is unable to investigate it and resolve it by agreement, the employer must refer it, in writing, to the Director-General.
Where employment relationship problems arise in respect of smoking in the workplace, employers and employees will deal with those in terms of the Employment Relations Act.
Offences and fines
It will be up to employers to take ‘all reasonably practicable steps’ to ensure that no one smokes in the workplace. Failure to do so may result in the employer being liable for a fine of up to $400 (individual) or $4,000 (body corporate).
The only individual smoking offence is for smoking on an aircraft (under the Civil Aviation Act 1990) which carries a maximum fine of $2500. Fines will not be imposed on smokers for smoking in other places.
An employer who without reasonable excuse fails to refer an unresolved workplace smoking complaint to the Director-General of Health is liable for a fine of $100 (for individuals) or $1,000 (for a body corporate).
This information is a guide only, and may not be accurate for all situations. It should not be used as a substitute for legal or other expert advice.
Please refer to the separate pamphlet Information for Employers, code 1601.
For further information on tobacco, health and the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 contact: