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British Columbia to Hold Hearings on Second-hand Smoke at Work

The Workers' Compensation Board of British Columbia, Canada, plans to hold public hearings on second-hand smoke health and safety standards in the workplace.

The Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) of British Columbia, Canada, will hold public hearings on second-hand smoke health and safety standards as a result of a British Columbia Supreme Court ruling last week.

In a decision by the Board's panel of administrators, public hearings will be held as soon as possible in locations and dates to be determined.

"The court's judgment is clear and we respect the decision," said Don Cott, chair of the panel of administrators, the Board's governing body. "While the consultation process moves forward, we will work with stakeholders to ensure workers in public workplaces are protected to the full extent of the remaining sections of second-hand smoke standards."

As of April 15, 1998, the vast majority of British Columbia workplaces became smoke-free, controlling workers' exposure to second-hand smoke through various options -- restricting smoking to designated areas where workers are not required to go, or prohibition.

A partial exemption was provided to bars, restaurants, casinos, bingo halls, sporting arenas and some other workplaces until Jan. 1, 2000.

The court's decision effectively cancels the January "sunset clause" leaving the partial exemption in place for public entertainment workplaces.

"The existing standards continue to provide some protection for these workers," said Cott. "Employers must still minimize workers' exposure to second-hand smoke through all reasonable and practicable controls, including administrative and engineering controls."

"The Board will ensure workers and employers know their rights and obligations under the second-hand smoke standards as they now stand," said WCB Prevention Vice-President Roberta Ellis. "This will include meeting with stakeholders on guidelines to address the existing standards, information on the WCB Web site and advertisements."

The WCB toll-free information line (800) 318-7390 continues to operate and receive complaints from workers and others about workers' exposure to second-hand smoke.

"The information line will provide a valuable source of information to employers and workers alike on the need to protect workers from this hazard," said Ellis.

Serving 1.8 million workers and approximately 165,000 employers, WCB is a provincial statutory agency governed by a panel of administrators. It is dedicated to a safe and healthy workplace and to providing return-to-work rehabilitation and fair compensation to workers injured or suffering occupational disease as a result of their employment.

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