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Smoke free zones: How safe are you at workplace?

A man like this one smoking puts your at a risk of second hand smoke which is deadly. 

Joseph muto has never smoked, however, he like many others operates in an environment that has smokers.
Although smoking is forbidden at the factory where he works, many of his colleagues smoke from outside the building and he interacts with the colleagues as they smoke.

A study conducted by PML Daily at two factories in and out of Kampala as well as some entertainment places revealed that the smoking problem is still a dilemma that society will grapple with.

The survey revealed that much as workers may restrain from smoking within the workplace, several still step out to do the same.

Some waiters and waitresses expressed their frustration with clients at bars who smoke yet they have to put up with the effects of inhaling the passing smoke.

There are several people like Muto who have never smoked in their lives but become victims as a result of passive smoking.

Passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke, called second-hand smoke (SHS), or environmental tobacco smoke, by persons other than the intended “active” smoker.

Statistics from World Health Organisation show there are one billion smokers worldwide and tobacco kills seven million people annually. Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke causes disease, disability, and death.

Signs such as these at workplaces will help victims speak out against smokers.

The health risks of second-hand smoke are a matter of scientific consensus. These risks have been a major motivation for smoke-free laws in workplaces and indoor public places, including restaurants, bars and night clubs, as well as some open public spaces. Passive smoking increases one’s risk to serious illnesses both in children and adults.

On May 31, every year, the World Health Organization and partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health and other risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2018 is “Tobacco and heart disease.”

Dr Hasfwa Lukwata, a senior medical officer in the department of mental health and substance abuse at the Health ministry says the public should report anybody smoking near them.

If an employee or a concerned citizen encounters a manager of a hotel or workplace or public transport smoking, they should not fear to alert the law enforcers or any concerned stakeholder if they feel endangered in any way.

According the Tobacco Control Act of 2015, every person has a right to a tobacco smoke-free environment and a person consuming a tobacco product shall ensure that he or she does not expose another person to tobacco smoke.
According to the Assistant commissioner Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) of the Gender Ministry Francis Odong, like the law states every employer or manager of the premise is expected to be mindful of his employees by ensuring that they are operating in a safe and healthy environment. There are several laws that provide for the safety and health of employees among others; The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, especially Article 40 (1), The Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2006 and Labour Unions, 2006.

Richard Baguma, the co-coordinator of Uganda Health Communication Alliance says the role of safety of a workplace starts with you.

“As tobacco advocates, we have been advocating for the law and it was put in place, as a worker or client if you feel that someone is putting you at risk demand for your right because the law will back you up. The law criminalizes the employer who does not follow the law and if a worker is affected, the law will take its cause. The other point is the labour movement, what are you doing because the time for action is now instead of speaking but act since it’s within their mandate to ensure the tobacco control law is implemented,” Mr Baguma states.

The law also states that a person shall not smoke in a public place, workplace or in any means of public transport prescribed in the Second Schedule to this Act and a person shall not smoke in any outdoor space that is-
Within 50 meters of any public place, workplace, public transport terminal or any other place that provides services primarily to children. A person responsible for a public place, workplace or means of public transport shall take responsible effort to ensure the observance of subsection (1) and (20.
Display of notices.

The law also requires a person responsible for the premises where smoking is prohibited to display in conspicuous place, a clear and prominent notice in the English or Swahili or any other language commonly used in the area that smoking is prohibited together with the prescribed penalty.

Odong adds that an employee must be compensated by his or her employee in the event that as a result of the injury he or she is unable to work anymore or is incapacitated for at least three consecutive days from earning full wages at the work at which he or she was employed.

The Occupational Safety Health (OSH) law says that in case an employee dies does as a result of the injury then the employer must compensate the lawful survivors/dependants through the Labour Commissioner according to the degree of dependence of the survivors to the deceased.

This is because the Workers’ Compensation Act 2006 requires employers to provide compensation to workers for injuries suffered and scheduled diseases incurred in the course of their employment.

The worker’s MP, Magaret Rwabashaija says that people have to own up and take the responsibility. There is need for government to take a lead in this because Uganda has very many good laws but abuse them perhaps if they are constantly sensitized on the importance of respecting it and failure to adhere will call for enforcement.

“People still smoke openly as though we don’t have the law, in families’ fathers and uncles are smoking yet children keep inhaling the smoke,” Rwabashaija adds.

The Female Worker’s MP Agnes Kunihira notes that smoking level has reduced because of the given law in place. “Most people are empowered but they don’t know the law which means they have to be reminded regularly. Government has tried only need to do a little more,” Kunuhira adds.

One police implementer on the ground explains that police in Jinja, Mukono and Wakiso started to arrest people who smoke openly but on arresting, they failed to collaborate with court and they had to let go and they did not hear from government. We can’t arrest and keep a person for more than 48 years and yet it’s not capital offence. The implementers should go back on the drawing table discuss with government leading otherwise the abuse will not stop,” the police implementer says.

Sadly, tobacco products can be accessed by anyone.

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