What is physical distancing and how does it prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Physical distancing (also referred to as ‘social distancing’) refers to the requirement that people distance themselves from others.  

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through contact with droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly into the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the droplets and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands.

Current health advice states that in order to reduce the risk of contact and droplet spread from a person, directly or indirectly, and from contaminated surfaces, people should maintain physical distance of at least 1.5 metres, practice good hand hygiene and engage in routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. 

Physical distancing can also include requirements for there to be 4 square metres of space per person in a room or enclosed space, as well as limits on gathering sizes. These requirements differ between industries and between states and territories. For example, some states and territories have updated public health directions to adjust physical distancing rules in line with local circumstances, such as revising the one person per 4 square metres rule to one person per 2 square metres in some circumstances. 

For more information about physical distancing requirements applicable to your business, go to your relevant state and territory government website. You can also go to our Public health directions and COVIDSafe plans page for links to enforceable government directions.

Do I need to implement physical distancing measures in my workplace?

Yes. It is your duty under work health and safety laws to manage the risk of a person in your workplace spreading and contracting COVID-19, including the risk that persons with COVID-19 enter the workplace. Physical distancing is one of the key ways to lower the risk of COVID-19 being spread or contracted at your workplace.  

The risk of COVID-19 should be treated in the same way as any other workplace hazard – by applying a risk management approach. 

In consultation with your workers, including volunteers, and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives (HSRs)), you will need to assess the likelihood and degree of harm people may experience if exposed to COVID-19 and then implement the most effective control measures that are reasonably practicable to manage the risk. The control measures you implement should include outcomes that support physical distancing and operate alongside measures encouraging good hygiene amongst workers and others as well as regular and thorough cleaning of the workplace.

To meet your WHS duty you should be continually monitoring and reviewing the risks to the health and safety of workers and others, as well as the effectiveness of control measures put in place to eliminate or minimise these risks. You must also assess any new or changed risks arising from COVID-19, for example customer aggression, high work demand or working in isolation.

Further guidance on the risk management process is available in the Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks.

You may also need to comply with physical distancing measures issued under public health directions in your state or territory. Each state and territory has directions that reflect local circumstances. For more information about physical distancing requirements, go to your relevant state or territory government website. You can also go to our public health directions and COVIDSafe plans page for links to government health directions. 

How do the public health directions in my state or territory interact with my WHS duty?

You must comply with your state or territory’s public health directions that apply to your business. 

Your WHS duty is to do all that you reasonably can to manage the risks of a person contracting and/or spreading COVID-19 in your workplace. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to implement control measures in order to meet your WHS duty that go beyond the minimum requirements stated in public health directions or advised by public health authorities. For example, public health directions may state you can have up to 10 customers in your shop at any one time. However, in undertaking your risk assessment you may determine that due to the layout of the workplace and your work processes, having 10 customers in the store would not effectively support physical distancing outcomes. Instead, limiting your store to 8 customers at a time would ensure everyone can maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from each other.

How do I determine which physical distancing measures to implement to minimise the risk of COVID 19 spreading in my workplace?

To determine which physical distancing measures will be most effective in your workplace, you will need to undertake a risk assessment.

A risk assessment is part of the risk management process which involves identifying where the risk arises in your workplace, assessing the risks (including the likelihood of them happening), controlling the risks and reviewing these controls regularly. These steps remain the same whether you are conducting a risk assessment in relation to work health and safety generally, or specifically in relation to COVID-19.

In order to determine the most effective physical distancing measures you will need to: 

  • identify all activities or situations where people in your workplace may be in close proximity to each other,
  • assess the level of risk that people in these activities or situations may contract and/or spread COVID-19 in your workplace, and
  • determine what control measures are reasonably practicable to implement based on the assessed level of risk. 

Remember, you must consult with workers, including volunteers, and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace. See also our information on consultation.   

See also our information on key considerations for undertaking a risk assessment – COVID-19

What physical distancing measures do I need to implement in my workplace?

Below are suggested measures to ensure physical distancing is achieved in your industry. Certain activities may not be permissible or there may be specific requirements in your state or territory at this time and therefore some of the proposed measures may not be relevant to your workplace. For more information about physical distancing requirements, go to your relevant state or territory government website. You can also go to our public health directions and COVIDSafe plans page for links to government health directions. 

Remember, you must do all that is reasonably practicable to manage the risk of people contracting and/or spreading COVID-19. See also our guidance on determining what is reasonably practicable for more information.

Also remember, you must consult with workers and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives (HSRs)) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.  

Some accommodation providers offer additional services, such as courtesy buses or other transport, gyms, sit-down dining, day spas and beauty salons. For physical distancing measures specific to those services, refer to the following pages:

Guests that are self-isolating at your accommodation service

Some accommodation services may be hosting guests that are self-isolating after returning from overseas. Where this is the case, always follow the advice of public health authorities to keep workers, guests and visitors safe. In general:

  • ensure self-isolating guests are placed in rooms that are further away from high-traffic areas and any shared amenities. Guests that are self-isolating cannot use any shared amenities
  • ensure guests that are self-isolating are aware they must not have contact with other guests or staff
  • food services staff should arrange for contactless delivery of food and drinks (e.g. outside the room door) to minimise direct exposure to a guest who is self-isolating, and
  • undertake a risk assessment to determine the most appropriate control measures for maintaining physical distancing during routine room cleaning, servicing and other personal guest services such as laundry.

For further information and assistance you can contact the health department in your state or territory, or your jurisdictional work health and safety regulator.

Routine guest services

Physical distancing should be maintained between workers and guests when undertaking front-of-house tasks such as taking reservations, checking-in and checking-out guests, as well as providing concierge services, assistance and answering questions. 

  • Where possible, maximise physical distancing by limiting the number of workers and guests in guest service areas at any one time by: 
    • staggering guest check-in and check-out times where possible
    • utilising technology or other processes to enable guests to complete check-in and check-out online and use keyless entry if possible or have express key pick-up/drop-off points, and
    • encouraging guests to call reception or the concierge for any assistance, rather than visiting in person.
  • Direct workers and guests who are not part of the same family unit to keep 1.5 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing: 
    • put signs around the service areas and implement clear queuing systems with floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and guests of physical distancing requirements. Consider whether signage in different languages or with pictures is needed to communicate with any workers for whom English is a second language.
    • consider the use of physical barriers between workers and guests at reception/concierge desks if appropriate, and  
    • require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction. For example, communicating with porters or housekeeping staff. 

Public areas

For public areas, where guests traditionally congregate such as hotel lobbies you will need to implement measures to manage traffic flows and numbers of guests congregating.

  • Determine how many people are able to use particular areas at a time based on physical distancing requirements. 
    • When guests check-in, encourage them to minimise time spent congregating in public areas during their stay. This could be reinforced through signage in public areas.
    • Implement measures to monitor the number of persons in public areas and request that guests return to their rooms or move to another area if there are too many people congregating in a particular area. 
  • Put signs around public areas, including corridors to remind guests and workers of physical distancing requirements and create floor markings in areas where guests may congregate that provide a minimum 1.5 metre guide. Consider whether signage in different languages or with pictures is needed to communicate with any workers for whom English is a second language.
  • Create specific walkways in public areas with one way traffic flows where practical and appropriate. Where possible place these walkways in areas furthest away from where workers are stationed. If possible, designate separate doors for guests and workers. You may also wish to have doors designated for entry to, and exit from, the building.
  • Spread out any furniture in public areas to maximise distancing and consider removing chairs and tables if adequate distancing is not able to be achieved.
  • If changing the physical layout of public areas, your layout must allow for workers and guests to enter, exit and move about both under normal conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.

Lifts

  • Even if workers, guests and others only spend a short amount of time in a lift each day, they are still at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 when using a lift. 
  • There is no requirement to provide 4 square metres of space per person in lifts, however you must still ensure, as far as you reasonably can, that people maintain physical distancing in lifts and lift waiting areas.
  • Safe use of lifts is best achieved through a combination of measures, determined in consultation with workers, other employers in the building and the building owner/manager. This includes: 
    • if possible, reducing the number of workers, guests and others who need to use the lift at the same time (e.g. by promoting use of stairs if safe to do so and encouraging guests and workers to wait for the next lift, where possible). If possible you may also wish to consider allocating certain lifts for workers and others for guests.
    • implementing physical distancing measures in the lift waiting area including queueing systems, floor markings and advising of passenger limits for each lift
    • ensuring that when in the lift people maintain physical distance to the extent possible and practice good hygiene including cough and sneezing etiquette and washing hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser after exiting the lift.
    • displaying signage to promote physical distancing and hand hygiene measures.
  • Hotels accommodating guests who have recently arrived from overseas and are checking in for the purpose of isolation should put measures in place for the safe use of lifts by guests on the way to their room. Direct these guests not to share a lift with workers or other persons and to minimise physical contact with surfaces. Also ensure increased cleaning of lifts takes place. See also our information on cleaning.
  • If workers, guests or others are to use the stairs or emergency exits as alternatives to using lifts, you must consider if any new risks may arise (e.g. increased risk of slip trips and falls) and consider how other existing WHS measures will be impacted (e.g. emergency plans and procedures See also our information on emergency plans)
  • See also our case study on lifts for further information

Room services

  • Unless necessary, only one worker should attend a guest’s room to provide room service, such as delivering food. If possible, arrange to leave the food at the room door for the guest to pick up and take inside.
  • Implement measures so that workers, to the extent possible, do not need to enter a guests’ room while it is occupied. For example, room service meals or beverages could be left outside the room for the guest to collect after knocking or following a phone call to advise the food has been delivered. If that is not practical, request that guests maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres from your workers when they are in the room. For example, trolleys could be used to assist in this distancing and guests could pick up their own trays from the trolley.
    • If reasonably practicable, you could also leave door stoppers in each room or provide these to service staff so self-shutting hotel room doors can be kept open while the service person enters the room, rather than the guest holding the door open.
  • Consider implementing alternatives to guests having to sign the room service bill. Where this is not possible, the worker should place the bill on an appropriate surface and step away while the guest signs – request that the guest use their own pen or the pen that is provided in a room.
  • Where rooms are equipped with a minibar, consider removing items that cannot be cleaned between guest use of the room and cleaning all other minibar items after a guest checks out.

Housekeeping

  • Request that guests leave the room while housekeeping is being undertaken. Where guests are present, housekeeping should move to the next room and return when guests are not in the room.
  • Provide housekeeping workers with their own tools and equipment where possible – e.g. cleaning trolleys, to minimise the need for close contact with other workers. Where close contact cannot be avoided, provide housekeeping staff with appropriate masks, gloves or PPE – see our information on PPE.
  • Where practical and safe to do so, implement processes so that only a single worker cleans a room at a time. Where more than one worker is required to perform housekeeping tasks safely in a room, direct workers to maintain physical distancing where possible or minimise close contact to the extent possible. 
    • Ensure you consult with workers and their representatives on these changes and any potential consequences, such as housekeeping tasks taking longer to complete.
  • For further information on cleaning to minimise the risk of COVID-19, see our cleaning webpage.

Shared guest amenities

  • For accommodation service providers such as caravan parks, hostels and Bed and Breakfasts that provide shared guest amenities such as bathrooms and communal kitchen and eating areas, you need to ensure that physical distancing is maintained by guests while using these amenities (if the guests do not come from the same household).
  • Calculate the number of people that can fit in a shared area following the 4 square metres rule and place this number on a sign at the entrance to the room. 
    • If your accommodation service has communal sleeping quarters such as dormitories or shared cabins, accommodating persons other than members of the same household, ensure each person has at least 4 square metres of space. This may mean not allowing all beds within the shared sleeping quarters to be filled. 
  • Encourage guests to use shared amenities, such as kitchens and bathrooms, at off-peak times to reduce any high demand that occurs at specific times. Consider implementing a system for guests to sign-up to use kitchen and bathroom amenities within specific timeslots.
  • Where relevant and appropriate, consider allowing guests to eat meals they prepare in their room, where appropriate, to reduce the number of people sharing eating areas. For places such as caravan parks and camp grounds with communal kitchens, encourage guests to take prepared food back to their caravans or campsites rather than use communal eating areas.
  • Where practicable, spread out kitchen appliances to reduce the number of people in the meal preparation area.
  • Move dining tables and seating so that they are spaced 1.5 metres  apart.
  • Put signs around shared amenities and install floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance.
  • Close shared amenities while cleaning is being undertaken to maintain distancing between workers and guests.
  • Encourage guests to minimise the time they spend using bathroom facilities. For example, where possible encourage guest to apply cosmetics using a mirror in their room rather than the bathroom.

Recreational facilities

If your accommodation service provides recreation facilities such as pools, tennis courts, games rooms, BBQ areas etc, you need to ensure that physical distancing is maintained by guests while using these amenities, unless they are from the same household.

  • Calculate the number of people that can fit in a shared enclosed area following the 4 square metres rule and place this number on a sign at the entrance. 
  • Spread out furniture such as pool tables and video game machines in games rooms, and chairs/tables in the pool area to maximise spacing and consider removing furniture if adequate distancing is not able to be achieved. 
  • Only permit groups that are staying together to use recreational facilities (except pools), including BBQ facilities, at one time – implement a booking system to manage this.
  • spacing.
  • Put signs around recreational facilities and install floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance.
  • Close recreational facilities while cleaning is being undertaken to maintain distancing between workers and guests.

Staff only areas

  • Direct workers to maintain 1.5 metres physical distancing from each other in back office or staff only areas. To help achieve this:
    • limit worker numbers by facilitating working from home for office/administrative staff, where you can 
    • split or stagger workers’ shifts so that there is no overlap of staff arriving at and leaving the workplace.
    • consider having work groups so that the same group of workers work and have their rest breaks together.
    • put signs around staff areas and create floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance   
    • limit physical interactions between workers, and workers and other persons – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors  
    • require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction. 
    • reduce the number of workers utilising staff common areas at a given time – e.g. by staggering meal breaks and start times.
    • spread out furniture in staff areas, including workspaces or common areas to the extent possible, and
    • consider providing separate amenities for workers and others in the workplace – for example separate bathroom facilities for workers and guests. 

If changing the physical layout of the workplace, your layout must allow for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.  

Staff gatherings and training

  • Postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training. 
  • If gatherings, meetings or training are essential: 
    • use non face-to-face options to conduct – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing 
    • if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to 
    • hold the gathering, meeting or training in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart and with 4 square metres of space per person – e.g. outdoors or in large conference rooms 
    • limit the number of attendees in a gathering, meeting or training. This may require, for example, multiple training sessions to be held, and 
    • ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors, for example by limiting the use of recirculated air and/or opening windows and doors where possible. 

Deliveries and contractors attending the workplace

  • Non-essential visits to the workplace such as non-essential maintenance work and non-essential deliveries should be cancelled or postponed.   
  • Minimise the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible. 
  • Delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace, to provide maintenance or repair services or perform other essential activities, should be given clear instructions of your physical distancing requirements while they are on site.  
  • Ensure handwashing facilities, or if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available for workers after physically handling deliveries. 
  • Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods such as mobile phones to communicate with your workers wherever possible.  
  • Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered. 
  • Use, and ask delivery drivers and contractors to use, electronic paper work where possible, to minimise physical interaction. Where possible, set up alternatives to requiring signatures. For instance, see whether a confirmation email or a photo of the loaded or unloaded goods can be accepted as proof of delivery or collection (as applicable). If a pen or other utensil is required for signature you can ask that the pen or utensil is cleaned or disinfected before use. For pens, you may wish to use your own. 

On-going review and monitoring

  • If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks (e.g. because they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task), you need to manage those risks too. Consult with workers and their representatives in relation to measures to manage any new risks.
    • For example, changes to processes to maintain physical distancing may cause stress and anxiety among guests that may increase the risk of work-related violence. You can manage this risk by ensuring all signage indicates that work-related violence in response to new physical distancing measures (or for other reasons) will not be tolerated. Our work-related violence webpage has more information.
  • Put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of physical distancing measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective. 

Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a lunch break or when travelling to and from work?

Yes. Workers must always comply with any state or territory public health directions or orders. This includes maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres between people.  

In some states and territories there are strict limitations on gatherings in public places. This means that in some circumstances, workers cannot eat lunch together in a park or travel together in a vehicle to and from work.  

You should refer to your state or territory health authority for further information on specific restrictions in place under public health directions or orders in your state or territory. 

My workers need to travel in a vehicle together for work purposes. How do they practice physical distancing?

You must reduce the number of workers travelling together in a vehicle for work purposes. You should ensure that only two people are in a 5 seat vehicle – the driver and a worker behind the front passenger seat. Only one worker should be in a single cab vehicle. 
These measures may mean: 

  • more of your vehicles are on the road at one time  
  • more workers are driving and for longer periods than usual (if driving by themselves).  

Because of this, you should review your procedures and policies for vehicle maintenance and driver safety to ensure they are effective and address all possible WHS risks that arise when workers drive for work purposes.  

If workers are required to travel together for work purposes and the trip is longer than 15 minutes, air conditioning must be set to external airflow rather than to recirculation or windows should be opened for the duration of the trip.  

You must also clean vehicles more frequently, no matter the length of the trip, but at least following each use by workers. See also our information on cleaning. 
 

The information below provides guidance on physical distancing during step 2 of the 3-step framework for a COVIDSafe Australia. Some states and territories have updated public health directions to adjust physical distancing rules in line with local circumstances, for example, revising the one person per 4 square metres rule to one person per 2 square metres in some circumstances. 

For more information about physical distancing requirements, go to your relevant state and territory government website. You can also go to our Public health directions and COVIDSafe plans page for links to enforceable government directions.

Watch our video for information on physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your small business. 

Watch video on YouTube Download Transcript

What is physical distancing and how does it prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Physical distancing (also referred to as ‘social distancing’) refers to the requirement that people distance themselves from others.  

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through contact with droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly into the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the droplets and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands.

Current health advice states that in order to reduce the risk of contact and droplet spread from a person, directly or indirectly, and from contaminated surfaces, people should maintain physical distance of at least 1.5 metres, practice good hand hygiene and engage in routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. 

Physical distancing can also include requirements for there to be 4 square metres of space per person in a room or enclosed space, as well as limits on gathering sizes. These requirements differ between industries and between states and territories. For example, some states and territories have updated public health directions to adjust physical distancing rules in line with local circumstances, such as revising the one person per 4 square metres rule to one person per 2 square metres in some circumstances. 

For more information about physical distancing requirements applicable to your business, go to your relevant state and territory government website. You can also go to our Public health directions and COVIDSafe plans page for links to enforceable government directions.

Do I need to implement physical distancing measures in my workplace?

Yes. It is your duty under work health and safety laws to manage the risk of a person in your workplace spreading and contracting COVID-19, including the risk that persons with COVID-19 enter the workplace. Physical distancing is one of the key ways to lower the risk of COVID-19 being spread or contracted at your workplace.  

The risk of COVID-19 should be treated in the same way as any other workplace hazard – by applying a risk management approach. 

In consultation with your workers, including volunteers, and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives (HSRs)), you will need to assess the likelihood and degree of harm people may experience if exposed to COVID-19 and then implement the most effective control measures that are reasonably practicable to manage the risk. The control measures you implement should include outcomes that support physical distancing and operate alongside measures encouraging good hygiene amongst workers and others as well as regular and thorough cleaning of the workplace.

To meet your WHS duty you should be continually monitoring and reviewing the risks to the health and safety of workers and others, as well as the effectiveness of control measures put in place to eliminate or minimise these risks. You must also assess any new or changed risks arising from COVID-19, for example customer aggression, high work demand or working in isolation.

Further guidance on the risk management process is available in the Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks.

You may also need to comply with physical distancing measures issued under public health directions in your state or territory. Each state and territory has directions that reflect local circumstances. For more information about physical distancing requirements, go to your relevant state or territory government website. You can also go to our public health directions and COVIDSafe plans page for links to government health directions. 

How do the public health directions in my state or territory interact with my WHS duty?

You must comply with your state or territory’s public health directions that apply to your business. 

Your WHS duty is to do all that you reasonably can to manage the risks of a person contracting and/or spreading COVID-19 in your workplace. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to implement control measures in order to meet your WHS duty that go beyond the minimum requirements stated in public health directions or advised by public health authorities. For example, public health directions may state you can have up to 10 customers in your shop at any one time. However, in undertaking your risk assessment you may determine that due to the layout of the workplace and your work processes, having 10 customers in the store would not effectively support physical distancing outcomes. Instead, limiting your store to 8 customers at a time would ensure everyone can maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from each other.

How do I determine which physical distancing measures to implement to minimise the risk of COVID 19 spreading in my workplace?

To determine which physical distancing measures will be most effective in your workplace, you will need to undertake a risk assessment.

A risk assessment is part of the risk management process which involves identifying where the risk arises in your workplace, assessing the risks (including the likelihood of them happening), controlling the risks and reviewing these controls regularly. These steps remain the same whether you are conducting a risk assessment in relation to work health and safety generally, or specifically in relation to COVID-19.

In order to determine the most effective physical distancing measures you will need to: 

  • identify all activities or situations where people in your workplace may be in close proximity to each other,
  • assess the level of risk that people in these activities or situations may contract and/or spread COVID-19 in your workplace, and
  • determine what control measures are reasonably practicable to implement based on the assessed level of risk. 

Remember, you must consult with workers, including volunteers, and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace. See also our information on consultation.   

See also our information on key considerations for undertaking a risk assessment – COVID-19

What physical distancing measures do I need to implement in my workplace?

Below are suggested measures to ensure physical distancing is achieved in your industry. Certain activities may not be permissible or there may be specific requirements in your state or territory at this time and therefore some of the proposed measures may not be relevant to your workplace. For more information about physical distancing requirements, go to your relevant state or territory government website. You can also go to our public health directions and COVIDSafe plans page for links to government health directions. 

Remember, you must do all that is reasonably practicable to manage the risk of people contracting and/or spreading COVID-19. See also our guidance on determining what is reasonably practicable for more information.

Also remember, you must consult with workers and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives (HSRs)) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.  

Some accommodation providers offer additional services, such as courtesy buses or other transport, gyms, sit-down dining, day spas and beauty salons. For physical distancing measures specific to those services, refer to the following pages:

Guests that are self-isolating at your accommodation service

Some accommodation services may be hosting guests that are self-isolating after returning from overseas. Where this is the case, always follow the advice of public health authorities to keep workers, guests and visitors safe. In general:

  • ensure self-isolating guests are placed in rooms that are further away from high-traffic areas and any shared amenities. Guests that are self-isolating cannot use any shared amenities
  • ensure guests that are self-isolating are aware they must not have contact with other guests or staff
  • food services staff should arrange for contactless delivery of food and drinks (e.g. outside the room door) to minimise direct exposure to a guest who is self-isolating, and
  • undertake a risk assessment to determine the most appropriate control measures for maintaining physical distancing during routine room cleaning, servicing and other personal guest services such as laundry.

For further information and assistance you can contact the health department in your state or territory, or your jurisdictional work health and safety regulator.

Routine guest services

Physical distancing should be maintained between workers and guests when undertaking front-of-house tasks such as taking reservations, checking-in and checking-out guests, as well as providing concierge services, assistance and answering questions. 

  • Where possible, maximise physical distancing by limiting the number of workers and guests in guest service areas at any one time by: 
    • staggering guest check-in and check-out times where possible
    • utilising technology or other processes to enable guests to complete check-in and check-out online and use keyless entry if possible or have express key pick-up/drop-off points, and
    • encouraging guests to call reception or the concierge for any assistance, rather than visiting in person.
  • Direct workers and guests who are not part of the same family unit to keep 1.5 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing: 
    • put signs around the service areas and implement clear queuing systems with floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and guests of physical distancing requirements. Consider whether signage in different languages or with pictures is needed to communicate with any workers for whom English is a second language.
    • consider the use of physical barriers between workers and guests at reception/concierge desks if appropriate, and  
    • require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction. For example, communicating with porters or housekeeping staff. 

Public areas

For public areas, where guests traditionally congregate such as hotel lobbies you will need to implement measures to manage traffic flows and numbers of guests congregating.

  • Determine how many people are able to use particular areas at a time based on physical distancing requirements. 
    • When guests check-in, encourage them to minimise time spent congregating in public areas during their stay. This could be reinforced through signage in public areas.
    • Implement measures to monitor the number of persons in public areas and request that guests return to their rooms or move to another area if there are too many people congregating in a particular area. 
  • Put signs around public areas, including corridors to remind guests and workers of physical distancing requirements and create floor markings in areas where guests may congregate that provide a minimum 1.5 metre guide. Consider whether signage in different languages or with pictures is needed to communicate with any workers for whom English is a second language.
  • Create specific walkways in public areas with one way traffic flows where practical and appropriate. Where possible place these walkways in areas furthest away from where workers are stationed. If possible, designate separate doors for guests and workers. You may also wish to have doors designated for entry to, and exit from, the building.
  • Spread out any furniture in public areas to maximise distancing and consider removing chairs and tables if adequate distancing is not able to be achieved.
  • If changing the physical layout of public areas, your layout must allow for workers and guests to enter, exit and move about both under normal conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.

Lifts

  • Even if workers, guests and others only spend a short amount of time in a lift each day, they are still at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 when using a lift. 
  • There is no requirement to provide 4 square metres of space per person in lifts, however you must still ensure, as far as you reasonably can, that people maintain physical distancing in lifts and lift waiting areas.
  • Safe use of lifts is best achieved through a combination of measures, determined in consultation with workers, other employers in the building and the building owner/manager. This includes: 
    • if possible, reducing the number of workers, guests and others who need to use the lift at the same time (e.g. by promoting use of stairs if safe to do so and encouraging guests and workers to wait for the next lift, where possible). If possible you may also wish to consider allocating certain lifts for workers and others for guests.
    • implementing physical distancing measures in the lift waiting area including queueing systems, floor markings and advising of passenger limits for each lift
    • ensuring that when in the lift people maintain physical distance to the extent possible and practice good hygiene including cough and sneezing etiquette and washing hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser after exiting the lift.
    • displaying signage to promote physical distancing and hand hygiene measures.
  • Hotels accommodating guests who have recently arrived from overseas and are checking in for the purpose of isolation should put measures in place for the safe use of lifts by guests on the way to their room. Direct these guests not to share a lift with workers or other persons and to minimise physical contact with surfaces. Also ensure increased cleaning of lifts takes place. See also our information on cleaning.
  • If workers, guests or others are to use the stairs or emergency exits as alternatives to using lifts, you must consider if any new risks may arise (e.g. increased risk of slip trips and falls) and consider how other existing WHS measures will be impacted (e.g. emergency plans and procedures See also our information on emergency plans)
  • See also our case study on lifts for further information

Room services

  • Unless necessary, only one worker should attend a guest’s room to provide room service, such as delivering food. If possible, arrange to leave the food at the room door for the guest to pick up and take inside.
  • Implement measures so that workers, to the extent possible, do not need to enter a guests’ room while it is occupied. For example, room service meals or beverages could be left outside the room for the guest to collect after knocking or following a phone call to advise the food has been delivered. If that is not practical, request that guests maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres from your workers when they are in the room. For example, trolleys could be used to assist in this distancing and guests could pick up their own trays from the trolley.
    • If reasonably practicable, you could also leave door stoppers in each room or provide these to service staff so self-shutting hotel room doors can be kept open while the service person enters the room, rather than the guest holding the door open.
  • Consider implementing alternatives to guests having to sign the room service bill. Where this is not possible, the worker should place the bill on an appropriate surface and step away while the guest signs – request that the guest use their own pen or the pen that is provided in a room.
  • Where rooms are equipped with a minibar, consider removing items that cannot be cleaned between guest use of the room and cleaning all other minibar items after a guest checks out.

Housekeeping

  • Request that guests leave the room while housekeeping is being undertaken. Where guests are present, housekeeping should move to the next room and return when guests are not in the room.
  • Provide housekeeping workers with their own tools and equipment where possible – e.g. cleaning trolleys, to minimise the need for close contact with other workers. Where close contact cannot be avoided, provide housekeeping staff with appropriate masks, gloves or PPE – see our information on PPE.
  • Where practical and safe to do so, implement processes so that only a single worker cleans a room at a time. Where more than one worker is required to perform housekeeping tasks safely in a room, direct workers to maintain physical distancing where possible or minimise close contact to the extent possible. 
    • Ensure you consult with workers and their representatives on these changes and any potential consequences, such as housekeeping tasks taking longer to complete.
  • For further information on cleaning to minimise the risk of COVID-19, see our cleaning webpage.

Shared guest amenities

  • For accommodation service providers such as caravan parks, hostels and Bed and Breakfasts that provide shared guest amenities such as bathrooms and communal kitchen and eating areas, you need to ensure that physical distancing is maintained by guests while using these amenities (if the guests do not come from the same household).
  • Calculate the number of people that can fit in a shared area following the 4 square metres rule and place this number on a sign at the entrance to the room. 
    • If your accommodation service has communal sleeping quarters such as dormitories or shared cabins, accommodating persons other than members of the same household, ensure each person has at least 4 square metres of space. This may mean not allowing all beds within the shared sleeping quarters to be filled. 
  • Encourage guests to use shared amenities, such as kitchens and bathrooms, at off-peak times to reduce any high demand that occurs at specific times. Consider implementing a system for guests to sign-up to use kitchen and bathroom amenities within specific timeslots.
  • Where relevant and appropriate, consider allowing guests to eat meals they prepare in their room, where appropriate, to reduce the number of people sharing eating areas. For places such as caravan parks and camp grounds with communal kitchens, encourage guests to take prepared food back to their caravans or campsites rather than use communal eating areas.
  • Where practicable, spread out kitchen appliances to reduce the number of people in the meal preparation area.
  • Move dining tables and seating so that they are spaced 1.5 metres  apart.
  • Put signs around shared amenities and install floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance.
  • Close shared amenities while cleaning is being undertaken to maintain distancing between workers and guests.
  • Encourage guests to minimise the time they spend using bathroom facilities. For example, where possible encourage guest to apply cosmetics using a mirror in their room rather than the bathroom.

Recreational facilities

If your accommodation service provides recreation facilities such as pools, tennis courts, games rooms, BBQ areas etc, you need to ensure that physical distancing is maintained by guests while using these amenities, unless they are from the same household.

  • Calculate the number of people that can fit in a shared enclosed area following the 4 square metres rule and place this number on a sign at the entrance. 
  • Spread out furniture such as pool tables and video game machines in games rooms, and chairs/tables in the pool area to maximise spacing and consider removing furniture if adequate distancing is not able to be achieved. 
  • Only permit groups that are staying together to use recreational facilities (except pools), including BBQ facilities, at one time – implement a booking system to manage this.
  • spacing.
  • Put signs around recreational facilities and install floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance.
  • Close recreational facilities while cleaning is being undertaken to maintain distancing between workers and guests.

Staff only areas

  • Direct workers to maintain 1.5 metres physical distancing from each other in back office or staff only areas. To help achieve this:
    • limit worker numbers by facilitating working from home for office/administrative staff, where you can 
    • split or stagger workers’ shifts so that there is no overlap of staff arriving at and leaving the workplace.
    • consider having work groups so that the same group of workers work and have their rest breaks together.
    • put signs around staff areas and create floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance   
    • limit physical interactions between workers, and workers and other persons – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors  
    • require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction. 
    • reduce the number of workers utilising staff common areas at a given time – e.g. by staggering meal breaks and start times.
    • spread out furniture in staff areas, including workspaces or common areas to the extent possible, and
    • consider providing separate amenities for workers and others in the workplace – for example separate bathroom facilities for workers and guests. 

If changing the physical layout of the workplace, your layout must allow for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.  

Staff gatherings and training

  • Postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training. 
  • If gatherings, meetings or training are essential: 
    • use non face-to-face options to conduct – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing 
    • if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to 
    • hold the gathering, meeting or training in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart and with 4 square metres of space per person – e.g. outdoors or in large conference rooms 
    • limit the number of attendees in a gathering, meeting or training. This may require, for example, multiple training sessions to be held, and 
    • ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors, for example by limiting the use of recirculated air and/or opening windows and doors where possible. 

Deliveries and contractors attending the workplace

  • Non-essential visits to the workplace such as non-essential maintenance work and non-essential deliveries should be cancelled or postponed.   
  • Minimise the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible. 
  • Delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace, to provide maintenance or repair services or perform other essential activities, should be given clear instructions of your physical distancing requirements while they are on site.  
  • Ensure handwashing facilities, or if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available for workers after physically handling deliveries. 
  • Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods such as mobile phones to communicate with your workers wherever possible.  
  • Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered. 
  • Use, and ask delivery drivers and contractors to use, electronic paper work where possible, to minimise physical interaction. Where possible, set up alternatives to requiring signatures. For instance, see whether a confirmation email or a photo of the loaded or unloaded goods can be accepted as proof of delivery or collection (as applicable). If a pen or other utensil is required for signature you can ask that the pen or utensil is cleaned or disinfected before use. For pens, you may wish to use your own. 

On-going review and monitoring

  • If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks (e.g. because they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task), you need to manage those risks too. Consult with workers and their representatives in relation to measures to manage any new risks.
    • For example, changes to processes to maintain physical distancing may cause stress and anxiety among guests that may increase the risk of work-related violence. You can manage this risk by ensuring all signage indicates that work-related violence in response to new physical distancing measures (or for other reasons) will not be tolerated. Our work-related violence webpage has more information.
  • Put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of physical distancing measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective. 

Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a lunch break or when travelling to and from work?

Yes. Workers must always comply with any state or territory public health directions or orders. This includes maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres between people.  

In some states and territories there are strict limitations on gatherings in public places. This means that in some circumstances, workers cannot eat lunch together in a park or travel together in a vehicle to and from work.  

You should refer to your state or territory health authority for further information on specific restrictions in place under public health directions or orders in your state or territory. 

My workers need to travel in a vehicle together for work purposes. How do they practice physical distancing?

You must reduce the number of workers travelling together in a vehicle for work purposes. You should ensure that only two people are in a 5 seat vehicle – the driver and a worker behind the front passenger seat. Only one worker should be in a single cab vehicle. 
These measures may mean: 

  • more of your vehicles are on the road at one time  
  • more workers are driving and for longer periods than usual (if driving by themselves).  

Because of this, you should review your procedures and policies for vehicle maintenance and driver safety to ensure they are effective and address all possible WHS risks that arise when workers drive for work purposes.  

If workers are required to travel together for work purposes and the trip is longer than 15 minutes, air conditioning must be set to external airflow rather than to recirculation or windows should be opened for the duration of the trip.  

You must also clean vehicles more frequently, no matter the length of the trip, but at least following each use by workers. See also our information on cleaning. 

What is physical distancing and how does it prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Physical distancing (also referred to as ‘social distancing’) refers to the requirement that people distance themselves from others.  

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through contact with droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly into the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the droplets and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands.

Current health advice states that in order to reduce the risk of contact and droplet spread from a person, directly or indirectly, and from contaminated surfaces, people should maintain physical distance of at least 1.5 metres, practice good hand hygiene and engage in routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. 

Physical distancing can also include requirements for there to be 4 square metres of space per person in a room or enclosed space, as well as limits on gathering sizes. These requirements differ between industries and between states and territories. For example, some states and territories have updated public health directions to adjust physical distancing rules in line with local circumstances, such as revising the one person per 4 square metres rule to one person per 2 square metres in some circumstances. 

For more information about physical distancing requirements applicable to your business, go to your relevant state and territory government website. You can also go to our Public health directions and COVIDSafe plans page for links to enforceable government directions.

What if I cannot always maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres?

It will not always be possible for you to keep 1.5 metres apart from customers at the workplace. Some tasks will also require you and other workers to be in close proximity in order to be carried out safely, such as lifting and moving heavy objects. 
Working in close contact with others increases your risk of being exposed to COVID-19. In these situations, your employer may consider delaying the task or seek to modify the task. Your employer must consult with you and relevant health and safety representatives on how to perform the work task safely, including where maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres is not possible.

For information on the measures your employer should be implementing see our employer information for your industry.

When working in close contact with others, you must practise good hygiene by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser (with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient).

Does my employer need to provide me with personal protective equipment if I am required to work in close contact with others?

You must comply with physical distancing requirements where possible. In circumstances where the nature of the task requires you to be in close contact with others, your employer must put control measures in place that minimise the time you spend with other people.

If the nature of your work task is such that even with additional control measures in place, you will either be:

  • face to face with a person for longer than 15 minutes over a course of a week, or
  • in a closed shared space with a person for more than 2 hours

You may need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), where it is available and safe to do so (e.g. disposable gloves, face protection).

Your employer must consult you and your relevant health and safety representative about the use of PPE and any WHS risks that may arise from using it.

Your employer must provide you with information and training on how to use and wear PPE.

Do I need to practice physical distancing when on a lunch break or when travelling to and from work?

Yes. You must always comply with any state or territory public health directions or orders. This includes maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres between people in public places and when travelling to and from work.

In some states and territories there are strict limitations on gatherings in public places. This means that in some circumstances, workers cannot eat lunch together in a park or travel together in a vehicle to and from work.

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