Can a care worker refuse to go in the home of a smoker? | QCS

Hi Sheila,

Can a care worker refuse to go in the home of a smoker?

Kind regards,


Sheila Scott
Answered by Sheila Scott

Dear Dawn,

We sent your question to our Health and Safety adviser Dave Bennion and this is his response.

Following the Health Act 2006 which came into force 1st July 2007 under the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006 employers have a duty to protect employees from “passive smoking” ie: 2nd hand smoke from either other work colleagues or service users.

This is the guidance from the HSE website:

Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA), to protect, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees, including from risks arising from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).

Employees carrying out work in clients’ homes

Below are some ideas, which may be helpful. However, it is for the employer to decide how they tackle the problem of second-hand smoke, based on the findings of their risk assessment.

·         Consult the HSE Guidance. Look for sensible solutions and compromises that protect the well-being of care workers, but respect the rights of those being cared for.

·         Ensure exposure to second-hand smoke is considered as part of the workplace risk assessment. Prioritise those most at risk (eg those with respiratory complaints, or those subjected to greatest exposure).

·         Evaluate whether smokers are happy to stop smoking when carers are present or how care workers might persuade them to do so.

Examine possibilities of:

·         Asking smokers to warn carers before lighting-up, so they may leave the room

·         Opening doors and/or windows or use of extractor fans

·         Smoking next to an open door/window

·         Designating smoking areas, eg the kitchen

Consider educating those being cared for. Smokers may be prepared to risk their own lives, but be more concerned about the damage they might cause others.

Here are a couple of links:

I hope this is helpful.

Best wishes,


About Sheila Scott

Sheila Scott OBE from National Care Association (NCA). Care is Sheila’s life; she possesses a strong command of the issues facing the care sector informed by her long career as a nursing professional, the owner and manager of a care business and as a leader in the care sector. 3. Read more

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