Helping staff kick the habit

28/05/2008 - 22:00
Helping staff kick the habit

Western Australian businesses carry about $251 million of the tangible costs of tobacco, a study commissioned by the Cancer Council of WA has found.

The economic study revealed that businesses pay about 27 per cent of the total smoking cost in WA, individuals about 60 per cent, and the government 13 per cent.

'Tangible' costs were gauged on the reduced size of the workforce in WA from smoking-related deaths and the number of absentees from work.

Cancer Council spokesperson Susan Stewart said the findings were surprising.

"The study really highlights the massive costs to companies and it's quite interesting when you see the data based on the split between the individual, the government and businesses," she told WA Business News.

According to ThyssenKrupp Engineering (Australia) Pty Ltd quality, safety and environment manager Jeremy Walden, employees taking regular cigarette breaks affect a company's ability to deliver services on time, adding further costs to an organisation.

"Getting essential tasks done can be a battle really, it can affect the company's schedules," he said.

Mr Walden is charged with ensuring quality control at the Stirling-based business, which provides equipment and services for the mining, materials handling and mineral processing industries.

ThyssenKrupp this month invited four of its staff to attend a Fresh Start course run by the Cancer Council to help the smokers kick the habit.

The course is a series of group counselling workshops led by trained health professionals and held at individual organisations.

Fresh Start coordinator Amanda Siebert said there was clear evidence that smoking costs businesses dearly and that there were many benefits to reducing smoking rates among employees.

"We know that a smoke-free workplace results in lower absentee rates and increased productivity, because of less time spent on cigarette breaks," she said.

"By encouraging and supporting staff to quit smoking, the health of the business, as well as its workforce, can improve."

The City of Stirling is another employer to have benefited from the Fresh Start courses.

The council, with the support of CEO Stuart Jardine, ran two courses earlier this year for staff as an extension of their health and wellbeing program.

City of Stirling occupational health and safety coordinator, George Steadman, has become an advocate for the program.

"The Fresh Start experience has definitely been a positive experience for our workplace and we'd certainly encourage other workplaces to do the same," Mr Steadman said.

Mr Walden said while improved production rates was a positive outcome, the most important reason for allowing staff to take the course was to benefit their health.

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