While use of electronic cigarettes is growing in popularity, employers are starting to take a look at adopting policies on use of the device at work, and how to protect workers from coming into contact with second-hand vapors.

XpertHR, a provider of online resources to keep HR professionals compliant with federal and state laws, outlined a six-step process employers can follow in formulating an effective e-cig policy in the workplace.

“The first thing an employer should do when creating an electronic cigarette policy is decide whether e-cigarettes will be completely banned, allowed in smoking areas, allowed in certain approved areas outside of the regular smoking areas or allowed everywhere inside the workplace,” says Ashley Shaw, legal editor at XpertHR. “No matter what an employer decides to do about electronic cigarettes, it is important to create a new written policy, or update an existing smoking policy, stating what is or is not allowed.”

Also see: Do workplace smoking bans apply to e-cigarettes?

The report, E-Cigarettes in the Workplace: How to Manage This New Risk,  emphasizes that the first thing to understand is that nicotine addiction is not a recognized disability under federal or most state laws, meaning employers are not obligated to allow e-cigs in the workplace as a reasonable accommodation.

It says the very first step in creating a workplace policy is to determine what state and local laws have to say about e-cig use.

Some state and local governments have already implemented laws regulating the use of e-cigs  the report notes, adding that at least three states — Colorado, New Jersey and Tennessee — as well as several local governments, have implemented laws that prohibit e-cigs in the workplace.

A second step includes determining if your workforce has employees with severe allergies, respiratory conditions or skin sensitivities.

While e-cigs are generally considered a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, short- and long-term health effects are still being studied. As such, individuals who are able to prove that exposure to e-cig vapor causes them to have serious reactions will still likely be protected by federal and state disability laws.

Also see: The e-cigarette dilemma

“Accordingly, before deciding whether to allow vaping in the workplace, an employer should identify and evaluate potential reasonable accommodations that may be offered to employees who complain about the exposure to e-cigarette vapor,” the report says.

Additional steps in creating your workplace policies include:

  • Weigh the pros and cons of allowing e-cigs in the workplace.
  • Survey employees to determine whether there is a demand for vaping.
  • Decide whether to allow vaping at work.
  • Develop a written policy.

The report notes that when developing the written policy, employers should address if vaping is allowed during work hours, permitted locations and circumstances and the legitimate business reason underlying the employer’s policy.

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