KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians are keen to have a smoke-free workplace but hope employers will provide designated places for smokers should the Government go ahead with its plan to extend no-smoking zones to office buildings and work premises.
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said it was a good proposal and would discourage people from smoking.
He, however, added that the new regulation should make it clear whether construction sites and plantations are considered workplaces.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn said on Wednesday that smoking would be banned in all workplaces in a move to provide a clean and healthy environment for workers.
He said the move, which was an extension of several existing no-smoking areas, would be included under a new regulation on indoor air quality which would be in place in six months.
Shamsuddin suggested that smoking rooms or enclosed areas for smokers within the building be disallowed as it would give the sign that smoking was tolerable.
If smokers need to smoke, they should step outside the premises where it wont harm other people, he said.
Shamsuddin said fines should be levied against employees and not the employer, citing a provision in the Occupational Safety and Health Act which stipulated that employees found guilty of flouting office safety rules could be fined up to RM1,000 or jailed three months.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) has offered to take up the governments proposal to regard smoking in the office as an occupational safety and health issue.
Niosh chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said his organisation was prepared to introduce awareness programmes about the dangers of secondary smoke inhalation in confined spaces, such as offices, to get the message through.
Occupational safety and health issues should not only be confined to blue-collar workers. Those working in offices should also be made aware of its importance in the workplace, he added.
He said employers could have special smoking rooms for smokers.
Chief operating officer of Dentsu Malaysia, S.P. Lee, said that it was a good move and people would have to adapt and learn to change.
Smokers have to respect non-smokers who have to inhale the same air, he said.
Borel Plasterboards Malaysia marketing director Andre Pramono said it was a good move and that companies should consider helping their employees to quit smoking.
Consumers Association of Penang president S.M. Mohd Idris said the ban on smoking in workplaces should be extended to restaurants, canteens, pubs, discotheques, nightclubs and casinos.
He said employees at such places were entitled to the same level of protection as workers in places where smoking was banned.
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