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.  

Attending to a client’s hair or face

It will not be practicable or safe to require workers to keep 1.5 metres of distance from clients when working on the client’s hair or face. In these circumstances you should seek to limit physical interactions between workers and clients and reduce the amount of time workers spend in close contact. This could be achieved by:

  • reducing the length and frequency of the appointment where possible. Consider whether you can split services over multiple appointments - e.g. colouring a client’s hair one day and the requesting them to return for a cut another day
  • minimising time spent near the client’s face where possible
  • not having apprentices sweep the floor around stations whilst the client is in or near the client station. Sweep in-between clients. 
  • not using a second worker to pass foil sheets to the colourist
  • not providing refreshments to clients, and
  • if using a kimono style gown requesting the client to gown and tie it themselves

See also our information on what to do if your workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from each other or clients and our information on personal protective equipment (PPE).

Other worker and client interactions and work tasks 

  • Provide each person with 4 square metres of space in enclosed areas where possible in accordance with general health advice or where required under public health directions in your state or territory.  
    • To achieve this, calculate the area of the enclosed space (length multiplied by width in metres) and divide by 4. This will provide you with the maximum number of people you should have in the space at any one time.  
  • To help you achieve 4 square metres of space per person limit the number of workers and clients in the workplace at the one time. To reduce the number of clients in the workplace you could:
    • block out appointments to limit client numbers
    • provide extra time between appointments so there is no overlap of clients arriving and leaving the workplace or, where possible have different entrances and exits to avoid interaction or ask one client to stand aside whilst another one enters or exits
    • limit the number of clients in waiting areas, particularly if your workplace accepts walk-in clients. If the waiting area is full, request booked clients to wait in their car or elsewhere and request walk-in clients to return later. Consider introducing a booking system for walk-in clients. 
    • contact clients if appointments are running behind schedule to avoid them having to wait inside the workplace
    • request clients not to bring friends or family members to appointments. If this is not possible, request that they inform you at the time of booking the appointment or at a reasonable time before attending the appointment so you can account for this person when applying the 4 square meter rule
    • invite clients to leave the premises promptly once they have completed their appointment - e.g. use language such as “I’ll let you go now, as I am expecting my next client and I want to keep you safe” 
    • To reduce the number of workers in the workplace at the one time you could:
    • reduce the number of tasks to be completed each day, where possible 
    • postpone non-essential tasks (e.g. rearranging displays) or complete them before or after you open to clients, and 
    • split workers’ shifts to reduce the number of workers onsite at any given time. Schedule time between shifts so that there is no overlap of staff arriving at and leaving the workplace. 
  • Where it is practical and safe to do so, review tasks and processes that usually require close interaction and identify ways to modify these to increase physical distancing between workers. 
  • At times other than attending to a client’s hair or face, direct workers and clients to keep 1.5 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing: 
    • implement measures in combination with measures for 4 square metres spacing, as set out above 
    • put signs around the workplace and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and clients of physical distancing requirements 
    • reduce the number of clients at the front desk by having clients pay and rebook when seated at the client station where possible – e.g. using wireless eftpos machine and other electronic devices or encouraging phone or online bookings where available
    • limit physical interactions between workers and other persons at the site – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors, and
    • stock each client station with the necessary tools for the day to minimise the worker having to walk around to find equipment – e.g. stock each client station with a hairdryer.

Layout of the workplace

  • You may need to redesign the layout of the workplace and your workflows to enable workers and clients to keep at least 1.5 metres apart to continue performing their duties. 
  • Create specific pathways for workers and clients to use where possible – e.g. require workers to take a certain path each time they need to obtain a hair product from the shelf.
  • Spread out client stations or close down every second client station (including those in the washing area). 
  • Consider removing furniture from the waiting area and encourage clients to wait outside. 
  • Consider floor and/or wall markings and signage to identify 1.5 metres distancing requirements, inside or outside the premises where possible.
  • Keep windows and doors open where possible.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation where possible.

If changing the physical layout of the workplace, your layout must allow for workers and clients 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 it 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 to provide fresh air. 

Workplace facilities 

  • 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 common areas. If changing the physical layout of the workplace, you must ensure the layout allows for workers and clients 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.  
  • Place signage about physical distancing around the workplace. Our website has links to a range of posters and resources to help remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread. These posters can be placed around the workplace and in client-facing work environments (e.g. workplace entrances). Consideration needs to be given to how to communicate with workers and others for who English is not their first language.  See our link to translated information on COVID-19.
  • Consider providing separate amenities for workers and others in the workplace – for example separate bathroom facilities for workers and clients, if possible. 

Lifts

  • Ensure workers and clients maintain physical distancing when using and waiting for lifts where possible. 
  • Ensure workers and clients maintain 1.5 metres distance when travelling in lifts where possible. Depending on the size of the lift, this may result in fewer persons travelling in a lift at any one time.
  • Engage with building managers, where relevant, to implement measures at waiting areas for lifts, such as floor markings or queuing systems to ensure workers maintain 1.5 metres distance, where possible. Also talk to building managers about implementing regular cleaning of high touchpoints such as lift buttons and railings – see also our information on cleaning.
  • Place signage in lifts and lift waiting areas reminding users to practice physical distancing and good hygiene while using and waiting for lifts.
  • To assist manage traffic flows implement measures to reduce the number of workers arriving and leaving buildings and using lifts at peak periods. This could include maintaining working from home arrangements for some staff or splitting staff into teams with alternating days in the workplace. Employers could also implement staggered start and finish times for their staff, where appropriate.

Deliveries and contractors attending the workplace

  • Non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed, for example sales representatives.   
  • 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 requirements while they are on site.  Ensure that the 4 square metres per person can be achieved when these works are occurring and consider if these tasks can be undertaken when minimal staff and clients are in the workplace.
  • 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 including risks to psychological health (e.g. because they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task or workers are more isolated), you need to manage those risks too. 
  • 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. 

Do I have to maintain physical distancing if I’m visiting a client’s home?

Yes. The model Work Health and Safety laws apply even when the workplace is a private home or dwelling. The client’s home is a workplace when you or your worker is there to perform work.

You or your worker should talk to the client to ensure they understand the risks of COVID-19 and about the control measures you must implement – including physical distancing - to minimise the risk of exposing them and your worker to the virus.  
 

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.  

Attending to a client’s hair or face

It will not be practicable or safe to require workers to keep 1.5 metres of distance from clients when working on the client’s hair or face. In these circumstances you should seek to limit physical interactions between workers and clients and reduce the amount of time workers spend in close contact. This could be achieved by:

  • reducing the length and frequency of the appointment where possible. Consider whether you can split services over multiple appointments - e.g. colouring a client’s hair one day and the requesting them to return for a cut another day
  • minimising time spent near the client’s face where possible
  • not having apprentices sweep the floor around stations whilst the client is in or near the client station. Sweep in-between clients. 
  • not using a second worker to pass foil sheets to the colourist
  • not providing refreshments to clients, and
  • if using a kimono style gown requesting the client to gown and tie it themselves

See also our information on what to do if your workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from each other or clients and our information on personal protective equipment (PPE).

Other worker and client interactions and work tasks 

  • Provide each person with 4 square metres of space in enclosed areas where possible in accordance with general health advice or where required under public health directions in your state or territory.  
    • To achieve this, calculate the area of the enclosed space (length multiplied by width in metres) and divide by 4. This will provide you with the maximum number of people you should have in the space at any one time.  
  • To help you achieve 4 square metres of space per person limit the number of workers and clients in the workplace at the one time. To reduce the number of clients in the workplace you could:
    • block out appointments to limit client numbers
    • provide extra time between appointments so there is no overlap of clients arriving and leaving the workplace or, where possible have different entrances and exits to avoid interaction or ask one client to stand aside whilst another one enters or exits
    • limit the number of clients in waiting areas, particularly if your workplace accepts walk-in clients. If the waiting area is full, request booked clients to wait in their car or elsewhere and request walk-in clients to return later. Consider introducing a booking system for walk-in clients. 
    • contact clients if appointments are running behind schedule to avoid them having to wait inside the workplace
    • request clients not to bring friends or family members to appointments. If this is not possible, request that they inform you at the time of booking the appointment or at a reasonable time before attending the appointment so you can account for this person when applying the 4 square meter rule
    • invite clients to leave the premises promptly once they have completed their appointment - e.g. use language such as “I’ll let you go now, as I am expecting my next client and I want to keep you safe” 
    • To reduce the number of workers in the workplace at the one time you could:
    • reduce the number of tasks to be completed each day, where possible 
    • postpone non-essential tasks (e.g. rearranging displays) or complete them before or after you open to clients, and 
    • split workers’ shifts to reduce the number of workers onsite at any given time. Schedule time between shifts so that there is no overlap of staff arriving at and leaving the workplace. 
  • Where it is practical and safe to do so, review tasks and processes that usually require close interaction and identify ways to modify these to increase physical distancing between workers. 
  • At times other than attending to a client’s hair or face, direct workers and clients to keep 1.5 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing: 
    • implement measures in combination with measures for 4 square metres spacing, as set out above 
    • put signs around the workplace and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and clients of physical distancing requirements 
    • reduce the number of clients at the front desk by having clients pay and rebook when seated at the client station where possible – e.g. using wireless eftpos machine and other electronic devices or encouraging phone or online bookings where available
    • limit physical interactions between workers and other persons at the site – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors, and
    • stock each client station with the necessary tools for the day to minimise the worker having to walk around to find equipment – e.g. stock each client station with a hairdryer.

Layout of the workplace

  • You may need to redesign the layout of the workplace and your workflows to enable workers and clients to keep at least 1.5 metres apart to continue performing their duties. 
  • Create specific pathways for workers and clients to use where possible – e.g. require workers to take a certain path each time they need to obtain a hair product from the shelf.
  • Spread out client stations or close down every second client station (including those in the washing area). 
  • Consider removing furniture from the waiting area and encourage clients to wait outside. 
  • Consider floor and/or wall markings and signage to identify 1.5 metres distancing requirements, inside or outside the premises where possible.
  • Keep windows and doors open where possible.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation where possible.

If changing the physical layout of the workplace, your layout must allow for workers and clients 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 it 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 to provide fresh air. 

Workplace facilities 

  • 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 common areas. If changing the physical layout of the workplace, you must ensure the layout allows for workers and clients 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.  
  • Place signage about physical distancing around the workplace. Our website has links to a range of posters and resources to help remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread. These posters can be placed around the workplace and in client-facing work environments (e.g. workplace entrances). Consideration needs to be given to how to communicate with workers and others for who English is not their first language.  See our link to translated information on COVID-19.
  • Consider providing separate amenities for workers and others in the workplace – for example separate bathroom facilities for workers and clients, if possible. 

Lifts

  • Ensure workers and clients maintain physical distancing when using and waiting for lifts where possible. 
  • Ensure workers and clients maintain 1.5 metres distance when travelling in lifts where possible. Depending on the size of the lift, this may result in fewer persons travelling in a lift at any one time.
  • Engage with building managers, where relevant, to implement measures at waiting areas for lifts, such as floor markings or queuing systems to ensure workers maintain 1.5 metres distance, where possible. Also talk to building managers about implementing regular cleaning of high touchpoints such as lift buttons and railings – see also our information on cleaning.
  • Place signage in lifts and lift waiting areas reminding users to practice physical distancing and good hygiene while using and waiting for lifts.
  • To assist manage traffic flows implement measures to reduce the number of workers arriving and leaving buildings and using lifts at peak periods. This could include maintaining working from home arrangements for some staff or splitting staff into teams with alternating days in the workplace. Employers could also implement staggered start and finish times for their staff, where appropriate.

Deliveries and contractors attending the workplace

  • Non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed, for example sales representatives.   
  • 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 requirements while they are on site.  Ensure that the 4 square metres per person can be achieved when these works are occurring and consider if these tasks can be undertaken when minimal staff and clients are in the workplace.
  • 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 including risks to psychological health (e.g. because they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task or workers are more isolated), you need to manage those risks too. 
  • 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. 

Do I have to maintain physical distancing if I’m visiting a client’s home?

Yes. The model Work Health and Safety laws apply even when the workplace is a private home or dwelling. The client’s home is a workplace when you or your worker is there to perform work.

You or your worker should talk to the client to ensure they understand the risks of COVID-19 and about the control measures you must implement – including physical distancing - to minimise the risk of exposing them and your worker to the virus.  

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.

Do I have to maintain physical distancing in a client’s home?

Yes. The model Work Health and Safety laws apply even when the workplace is a private home or dwelling. The client’s home is a workplace when you are there to perform work.

You or your employer should talk to the client to ensure they understand the risks of COVID-19 and about the control measures you must implement – including physical distancing - to minimise the risk of exposing them and your worker to the virus. 

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

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