Three key steps towards stub-out

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Related tags: Staff, Smoking

You've sweated blood in the planning, but now the ban is here what do you do if someone lights up in your face. Peter Forshaw, partner at national...

You've sweated blood in the planning, but now the ban is here what do you do if someone lights up in your face. Peter Forshaw, partner at national law firm Weightmans, offers some advice

With fines of up to £2,500 for staff who fail to prevent smoking, pubs need to give serious consideration to how they are going to enforce the ban.

As well as having all the required signage informing customers that the outlet is smoke-free, licensees should make sure there is a procedure in place to advise them in the event that they do light up.

Initially, licensees need to assess the risks involved with confronting a customer who may be unwilling to stop smoking, and decide which members of staff would be best equipped to deal with the situation.

The crucial element to coming up with a safe working policy is deciding how far each employee can go to enforce the ban. Whatever decision is made, the procedure should be incorporated into the pub's health and safety guidelines so that staff can refer to it.

This document should include a section on any additional staff training that needs to be organised to ensure they are able to carry out these duties. Recording procedures in a book will instil confidence in the team, making them feel that the licensee takes their welfare seriously and also that they are able to enforce the ban authoritatively.

The licensee should appoint an individual as having overall responsibility for noting down any instances of the ban being flouted, including details of the location in the premises where an incident occurred, how the situation was resolved and by which team member.

When it comes to actually policing the ban, three measures should be implemented to remove or reduce the risks:

Avoid problems early

These measures aim to prevent the ban being flouted in the first place and may include, identifying and closing off smoking "hot spots" within the venue, removing cigarette vending machines, increasing signage or audio announcements asking customers to work with staff and comply with the law, and extolling the benefits of compliance. This may include tent cards on tables or adverts on beer mats. Primary controls may also include actions by staff to prevent any conflict - often a polite reminder not to smoke will be enough.

Managing confrontation

These will include actions by staff to manage any conflict which does arise in order to

prevent it escalating to violence. Staff are likely to require training in some form of communication and conflict management. The procedure might include:

l Touring all the relevant parts of the premises looking out for anyone flouting the smoking ban.

l Drawing a smoker's attention to the non-smoking signage, reminding them that it is against the law to smoke in that area, politely asking them to refrain and advising them about external areas where smoking is permitted.

l Remaining polite but firm when confronting customers smoking inside the premises. Staff can express sympathy to the customer and remind them that it is a government-imposed ban: this can help to prevent hostility towards the pub and its staff.

l Advising persistent smokers that if they continue they will be asked to leave. Staff may want to do this away from other customers to avoid a public dispute.

When dealing with difficult customers, particularly in larger premises, staff should be able to summon support from colleagues, by mobile phone or radio, for example, as the presence of more than one staff member may encourage compliance.

How to tackle trouble

These are actions to be taken when violence arises following a direct refusal to cease smoking or to leave the premises. Clubs and larger pub venues may have the benefit of trained door supervisors or other security staff who can be available on-call to deal with volatile situations.

Other venues may need to train a core team of staff in a number of techniques and ensure adequate cover at all times. Only staff specifically trained in the use of force to evict customers should be permitted to do so, as using an incorrect technique can lead to claims of excessive force and, in extreme cases, serious physical harm.

An antisocial behaviour policy should be developed which should highlight the point at which the licensee wishes the police to be called.

Pubs should also swap information about persistent offenders. Specialist training companies in the trade can be used to ensure comprehensive, safe training, and the development of a policy and culture in accord with best practice on physical intervention.

It is hoped that the widespread publicity about the ban will mean that it will be introduced with the minimum of confrontation, and evidence from Scotland and Wales seems to indicate that this is likely to be the case.

The three-stage guidelines for policing the ban should still be followed - essentially, they are based on policies used by pub groups to manage other issues, such as underage drinking. Putting a procedure in place now could prevent costly fines, as well as potential claims from staff who have been inadequately protected in carrying out their duties.

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