The most obvious component of any indoor air quality program has to be control of tobacco smoke. More than one-quarter of
employees in the United States are smokers, according to a National Health Interview survey. This presents a challenge to
all business owners, who must balance the rights of smokers with those of nonsmokers.
It's pretty clear by now that secondhand smoke isn't healthy. Many veterinary hospitals and some cities and states have prohibited
smoking in buildings. This may solve some problems, but there are still situations when you may need to take action. For instance,
if staff members congregate outside the back door to smoke, nearby HVAC ducts or other mechanical equipment may reintroduce
the smoke into the building. Also, if there are enough smokers in that area, the exit is in essence "blocked" because nonsmokers
can't be forced to use any area where smoking is allowed.
Because most veterinary team members simply take a break when they need one, perhaps the most frustrating challenge for hospital
leaders is the productivity lost to smoke breaks. Many large companies that banned smoking in their buildings years ago have
reversed their decisions and created indoor smoking areas in an attempt to recapture some of that lost work time.
Phil Seibert, CVT
If your practice allows smoking in the building, you need to establish designated smoking areas. And these should be areas
where other employees don't need to go during their normal work activities. For instance, the break room wouldn't be appropriate.
Post signs in designated smoking areas and near the entrance to inform people that smoking is restricted to certain locations.
Generally speaking, smoking areas must be enclosed and exhausted directly to the outside. Federal guidelines recommend that
contaminated exhaust air be transported outside through ducts under negative pressure to avoid leakage. In order to maintain
this negative pressure, the HVAC system or exhaust fans must blow out more air than is supplied by intake vents. There's no
regulation yet on this subject, but my money is on OSHA taking action in the near future. With states already banning indoor
smoking in public places, the political climate seems to be such that the agency could reintroduce this issue with little
Phil Seibert, CVT, is an author, speaker, and consultant with SafetyVet in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org