The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has issued a statement on very high-risk environments, including nightclubs, dance venues and large unstructured outdoor events. For more information please refer to the AHPPC website.  

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.  

Below are suggested measures to ensure physical distancing is achieved in venues and during performances. You will need to consider what measures will be most appropriate for your venue to minimise risks as far as is reasonably practicable.  

You should implement the most effective and reliable controls to support physical distancing. Controls that rely on your workers advising and reminding patrons of physical distancing are less effective and may introduce other risks, such as work-related violence and aggression. Physical control measures such as designated seating or some form of barrier to separate patrons are generally more effective. 

Workers should be trained in processes and procedures to support physical distancing, including what to do if patrons do not follow these requirements (e.g. notify security or call police), and how to report incidents. You should consider the risks and whether security personnel may be required. You must review the effectiveness of control measures and adapt them or introduce additional control measures if existing arrangements are not effective and reliable.  

General 

  • Ensure audience numbers allow for physical distancing and provide 4 square metres of space per person with at least 1.5 metres between patrons. 
  • Consider moving performances to a larger space or outdoors if possible.
  • Provide access to additional facilities such as toilets if possible, for outdoor venues consider additional portable toilets to avoid congestion of patrons (e.g. during intervals or prior to or at the conclusion of a performance). 
  • Ensure foyers do not become crowded before performances or during intermission. For example
    • opening doors earlier and encouraging audiences to go straight to their seats or allowing access to open areas such as gardens while they wait. 
    • extending intermissions to facilitate the safe flow of audience traffic and access to facilities. 
    • staggering performance times so audiences for different performances are not concurrently using foyer space or facilities.
  • Ask patrons to provide their contact details at the point of ticket purchase and retain these records for the period required in your state (up to 56 days). If you have a membership program, keep member details up to date. This may assist local health authorities if contact tracing is required and may be legally required in your state or territory under health and emergency directions. 
  • Alternatively, scan QR codes or drivers licences/ID cards to collect attendee contact details.
  • Advise patrons about venue requirements in advance. Confirmation emails/letters for ticketed performances should include your measures for physical distancing, such as: 
    • when the venue doors will be open
    • whether bars and cloaking services will be available and any new systems in place (such as electronic ordering)
    • how audience members will be asked to queue and exit the venue 
    • that specific seating will be allocated for every ticket holder and must be unlocked before the event
    • seating maps, showing entry and exit points, and 
    • any other relevant rules you will be asking them to observe. 
  • Consider refunding ticket costs for those who cannot attend because of illness 
  • Ensure that any changes you make maintain disability access and safe thoroughfares for all patrons. This includes access when entering and moving through the venue, visibility of pathways and access to new instructions.
  • Limit backstage and green room access to essential personnel. For example, consider ceasing or changing the format of VIP meet and greet sessions to ensure performers can maintain physical distance from patrons. 
  • Place signage about physical distancing around the venue. See our 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. Clear, illustrated signage may assist communicating physical distancing requirements to patrons with language, hearing or literacy barriers. 
  • Consider risks of work-related violence in response to new physical distancing measures (or for other reasons):
    • provide patrons with information in advance and manage their expectations 
    • ensure signage and policies indicate work-related violence will not be tolerated
    • see also our information on work-related violence
  • Undertake contingency planning, including how to cancel the event or close the venue if the COVID-19 risk situation changes.
  • 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.

Entering, exiting and moving through venues

  • Use signs at the entrance to the venue to indicate the maximum number of patrons permitted at a time. Additional signs should be used at the entry to spaces within the venue, such as separate function rooms and bathrooms. 
  • Provide signage, floor decals and bollards to indicate distancing requirements wherever queuing might occur, including entrances to the building or performance areas and bathrooms.
  • Use signs to designate single-direction entry and exit points. You could use additional entry/exit doors into the venue if it is possible and safe to do so (for example, by using emergency exit doors or adding exits for outdoor venues). 
  • If the performance is ticketed, tell patrons where to enter and exit on their tickets or by email.
  • Depending on the size of your venue and the expected size of the audience, you may need to open the building and performance area entrances earlier than usual to reduce queuing for entry and washroom facilities. 
  • Consider asking audiences to exit the venue in an order that allows those closest to the exit to leave first. Provide signage at exits requesting patrons disperse swiftly to avoid crowding near exits. 
  • Provide hand sanitiser stations at all entry and exit points and throughout the venue, particularly areas that may have high touchpoints or traffic flows. 
  • Reduce crowding at ‘choke’ points or congregation points near amenities or food and drink facilities.
  • Minimise the need to touch door handles by chocking doors open with foot operated doorstoppers, where safe and appropriate for emergency exit doors.
  • Arrange any furniture to allow and encourage physical distancing (noting patrons are not required to distance from people from their family unit or household). Remove or tape-off furniture that is excessive to the venue’s adjusted capacity. Keep in mind that patrons with accessibility requirements may need priority access to furniture. 
  • Ticket ripping should be eliminated to avoid contact– use scanners or sight tickets upon entry.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation if the venue is indoors. 

Standing audiences 

You should provide 4 square metres of space per person, even where audiences are standing and implement measures to keep workers, performers and patrons 1.5 metres apart.

To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing:

  • implement measures to restrict audience size to allow 4 square metres per person
  • create and promote policies and procedures for the safety of any patrons who feel unable to physically distance due to the behaviour of other audience members
  • use floor markings and signage to indicate how much space audience members should allow each other
  • at ticketed events, consider a numbered grid to allocate standing areas to individuals or groups, similar to the way seats are allocated in seated venues. This could also facilitate control of traffic into and out of the venue allowing you to plan and stagger entry and exit to the venue, similar to plane boarding.
  • consider the times when the bar, tickets and merchandise is available, to manage the movement of patrons.
  • consider whether standing audiences or dancing patrons can adhere to physical distancing requirements and close the space if necessary. 

Seated audiences

Where performances take place in seated venues or alongside sit-down dining, implement measures to provide 4 square metres of space per person, with at least 1.5 metres between tables to keep groups of patrons apart from each other. 

To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing:

  • Reduce the number of seats and tables available to enable them to be adequately spaced out, allowing for clear walkways for patrons and staff. If seats or tables cannot be removed, identify and label those that cannot be used to maintain physical distancing.
  • Remove flyers, magazines and other items that might be shared between patrons.
  • If table service, bar services or refreshments are available, consider the use of electronic/app-based ordering systems to reduce interaction between patrons and staff. 
  • Place limits on the size of patron groups, in line with activities permissible in your state or territory.
  • Where larger communal type tables are used, consider changing to smaller tables where possible or implement measures to ensure each group of patrons are spaced at least 1.5 metres from other groups. Alternatively, use markings to show that individuals are unable to sit down in certain spots.
  • Consider a phased/staggered plan for seating patrons in the venue (similar to plane boarding) based on the specific configuration of your venue (e.g. Rows A-G, centre seats first). This may be aided by pre-queuing, foyer paging announcements, or instructions provided to audiences upon entry to the building.
  • The layout of seated areas must allow for staff and patrons 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.  

For more advice about maintaining physical distancing in restaurants, bars and cafes, see our information on physical distancing in the hospitality industry.

Designated smoking areas

Designated smoking areas must be separated from other patrons. Individuals in smoking areas must maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres at all times and should avoid blowing smoke toward another person.
Place signage about physical distancing around designated smoking areas.
 

Bar and merchandise services

Congregation of patrons for bar services, or to purchase merchandise or tickets, should be minimised to the extent possible, for example by allowing patrons to pre-order or order electronically and creating separate areas within your venue for these services. 

To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing:

  • Promote the purchase of electronic tickets away from the venue
  • Where possible, limit the number of workers behind service counters to comply with the 4 square metre ‘rule’.
  • Limit access to behind the counter areas, including any storage areas, to essential staff only. If reasonably practicable, consider separating staff into ‘groups’ according to where they work. For example, food and beverage counter staff should only interact with other food and beverage counter staff to the extent possible.
  • Implement measures to restrict customer numbers in service areas in accordance with 4 square metres per person. Ensure patrons can access bar areas while maintaining physical distancing and implementing customer queuing outside the service area with floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. 
  • Consider assigning a staff member to manage queues and customer access and egress during busier times. 
  • Use separate doors for patron entry and exit, if practicable, to avoid contact between people. If this is not possible, use other control measures, such as markings on the ground to direct the movement/flow of patrons.
  • Adapt menus and pricelists to avoid patrons having to share physical menus or congregate by posting online or by erecting large signs. Wherever possible, use electronic or contactless payment methods and consider allowing patrons to order and pay from their seat to minimise movement. 
  • If you offer online or phone ordering and payment, take extra steps to promote this option to reduce face to face interaction at the premises. Notify patrons only when their orders are ready for collection and request patrons do not arrive prior to that time.
  • Consider using physical barriers where possible, such as installing a plexiglass barrier at the counter and using stanchion and rope barriers to separate customers as they queue. 
  • Set up different areas for ordering and collection – e.g. consider designating an order counter and pick-up counter.
  • Place signs around customer ordering and waiting areas and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. 
  • If changing the physical layout of the service areas is part of your measures, your layout must allow for staff and patrons 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.  

For more advice about maintaining physical distancing between staff behind counter areas, see our information on physical distancing in the hospitality industry.

Back of house

‘Back of house’ or ‘rear of house’ is the term used to refer to the parts of a venue the public cannot access, such as the stage and backstage areas as well as make up, costume and dressing rooms. 

Where it is not reasonably practicable to implement physical distancing measures, you will need to consider other measures to ensure the safety of your workers and others. Contact your state or territory WHS regulator for advice. 

Limit contact between workers. For example, where possible:

  • make any reasonable adjustments to scripts or choreography to minimise contact between performers – for example, cease on-stage kissing, hugging, as well as lifts or othered partnered choreography which cannot be done safely while physical distancing.  
  • if onstage improvisation occurs, provide guidance and limits to ensure performers maintain physical distance.
  • schedule rehearsals so performers can socially distance in rehearsal spaces, change rooms and facilities and allow sufficient time for cleaning.
  • spread out or remove sets, props and equipment on stage, to increase distancing.
  • set up instruments so that musicians can maintain physical distance.  
  • consider ‘grouping’ workers that will have the most interaction with each other together and advising the ‘groups’ to minimise interaction outside of their group. For example, group performers who appear together.

In musical performances limit contact between workers by:

  • allowing sufficient space between equipment and instruments on stage to ensure performers can remain 1.5 meters apart while performing. 
  • use floor markings to assist performers to maintain distance.
  • if the performance space does not allow appropriate performer distancing (for example, if performers would usually be in an orchestra pit), identify alternative spaces in the venue that can be used instead or an alternative venue that can be used.

If you have technicians, such as audio and lighting engineers: 

  • existing site inductions should be revised to include the physical distancing policies at your venue.
  • if reasonably practicable, consider grouping bump in and bump out crew into smaller groups to set up and ‘close up’ the stage after the show or if not reasonably practicable, group all bump in and bump out crew together and encourage them to only interact with each other to the extent possible.
  • encourage sound staff, lighting staff and others with designated areas and equipment where they carry out their role to stay in that area and not undertake non-essential interactions with other staff. Similarly, ensure only essential staff enter the sound and lighting areas.

You must ensure your physical distancing measures do not introduce unsafe working conditions for crew. Consider other safety measures if possible, for example trolleys or lifting devices for heavy equipment. 

It will not always be possible for workers and others to keep 1.5 metres apart at all times at the workplace. For example, workers may have to work closely because of the nature of the task and some tasks require workers to be in close proximity to be carried out safely. If close contact with others is unavoidable, you must implement additional control measures to minimise the risks (e.g. rotating performers more frequently to limit the total amount of close contact). 

Staff gatherings and training

You must provide workers with any training, instruction and supervision necessary to implement the safety measures you have introduced, for example physical distancing requirements. However, consider how this can be provided safely. If possible, postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training. 

If gatherings, meetings or training are essential:

  • use non face-to-face options – 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. 

Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the workplace

  • Non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed.   
  • Contact your delivery suppliers and understand the systems in place for identifying if their employees are unwell and what actions are taken. 
  • Develop a plan for deliveries to minimise the interaction of delivery drivers with workers and patrons and communicate this to delivery suppliers, drivers and employees. 
  • 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 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 sanitised 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 staff are delivering orders to waiting patrons in vehicles outside the premises or they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task), 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 

My workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres when performing work. Does this mean they cannot perform work?

It will not always be possible for workers and patrons to keep 1.5 metres apart at all times at the workplace. For example, workers may have to work closely with each other or others because of the nature of the task and some tasks require workers to be in close proximity to be carried out safely, such as when moving heavy equipment, makeup artists applying makeup to a performer, or when more than one worker is required in a sound booth. 

Working in close contact increases the risk of workers being exposed to COVID-19. You must consider whether the work task must be completed or could be rescheduled to a later date. If the task must be completed and your workers, others (such as patrons) will be in close contact, you must undertake a risk assessment to determine what control measures are reasonably practicable in the circumstances to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks from COVID-19. 

For example, if close contact with others is unavoidable, you must implement other control measures such as: 

  • minimising the number of people within an area at any time. Limit access to the workplace or parts of the workplace to essential workers and patrons only 
  • moving work tasks to different areas of the workplace if possible 
  • considering separating workers into dedicated teams and have them work the same shift or work in a particular area, and 
  • ensuring each worker has their own equipment or tools.

Do I need to provide personal protective equipment to workers who are in close contact with each other?

You must ensure workers comply with physical distancing requirements where possible. In circumstances where the nature of the task requires workers and patrons or workers to be in close contact, you must put control measures in place that minimise the time workers spend with each other or with patrons in the workplace. You must also ensure workers and patrons are practicing good hygiene.

If you have a situation where, despite other control measures, workers will be in close contact with each other or with patrons for longer than the recommended time (i.e more than 15 minutes face-to-face cumulative over the course of a week or more than 2 hours in a shared closed space), consider the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and a mask.  

Workers must be trained in the proper use of PPE. Be aware of WHS risks that may arise as a result of workers using and wearing PPE.

Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a 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. 
 

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

Note: State and territory laws may restrict the operations of venues and businesses where live performances take place. Live performance venues must only operate to the extent permissible in each state or territory, and in accordance with specific requirements, where the performance occurs. These laws are updated regularly to reflect the COVID-19 risks in each jurisdiction. The information below outlines measures which cover all aspects of the live performance industry. Depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not currently be relevant to your business.

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.  

Below are suggested measures to ensure physical distancing is achieved in venues and during performances. You will need to consider what measures will be most appropriate for your venue to minimise risks as far as is reasonably practicable.  

You should implement the most effective and reliable controls to support physical distancing. Controls that rely on your workers advising and reminding patrons of physical distancing are less effective and may introduce other risks, such as work-related violence and aggression. Physical control measures such as designated seating or some form of barrier to separate patrons are generally more effective. 

Workers should be trained in processes and procedures to support physical distancing, including what to do if patrons do not follow these requirements (e.g. notify security or call police), and how to report incidents. You should consider the risks and whether security personnel may be required. You must review the effectiveness of control measures and adapt them or introduce additional control measures if existing arrangements are not effective and reliable.  

General 

  • Ensure audience numbers allow for physical distancing and provide 4 square metres of space per person with at least 1.5 metres between patrons. 
  • Consider moving performances to a larger space or outdoors if possible.
  • Provide access to additional facilities such as toilets if possible, for outdoor venues consider additional portable toilets to avoid congestion of patrons (e.g. during intervals or prior to or at the conclusion of a performance). 
  • Ensure foyers do not become crowded before performances or during intermission. For example
    • opening doors earlier and encouraging audiences to go straight to their seats or allowing access to open areas such as gardens while they wait. 
    • extending intermissions to facilitate the safe flow of audience traffic and access to facilities. 
    • staggering performance times so audiences for different performances are not concurrently using foyer space or facilities.
  • Ask patrons to provide their contact details at the point of ticket purchase and retain these records for the period required in your state (up to 56 days). If you have a membership program, keep member details up to date. This may assist local health authorities if contact tracing is required and may be legally required in your state or territory under health and emergency directions. 
  • Advise patrons about venue requirements in advance. Confirmation emails/letters for ticketed performances should include your measures for physical distancing, such as:
    • when the venue doors will be open
    • whether bars and cloaking services will be available and any new systems in place (such as electronic ordering)
    • how audience members will be asked to queue and exit the venue, and 
    • any other relevant rules you will be asking them to observe. 
  • Ensure that any changes you make maintain disability access and safe thoroughfares for all patrons. This includes access when entering and moving through the venue, visibility of pathways and access to new instructions.
  • Limit backstage and green room access to essential personnel. For example, consider ceasing or changing the format of VIP meet and greet sessions to ensure performers can maintain physical distance from patrons. 
  • Place signage about physical distancing around the venue. See our 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. Clear, illustrated signage may assist communicating physical distancing requirements to patrons with language, hearing or literacy barriers. 
  • Consider risks of work-related violence in response to new physical distancing measures (or for other reasons):
    • provide patrons with information in advance and manage their expectations 
    • ensure signage and policies indicate work-related violence will not be tolerated
    • see also our information on work-related violence
  • 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.

Entering, exiting and moving through venues

  • Use signs at the entrance to the venue to indicate the maximum number of patrons permitted at a time. Additional signs should be used at the entry to spaces within the venue, such as separate function rooms and bathrooms. 
  • Provide signage, floor decals and bollards to indicate distancing requirements wherever queuing might occur, including entrances to the building or performance areas and bathrooms.
  • Use signs to designate single-direction entry and exit points. You could use additional entry/exit doors into the venue if it is possible and safe to do so (for example, by using emergency exit doors or adding exits for outdoor venues). 
  • If the performance is ticketed, tell patrons where to enter and exit on their tickets or by email.
  • Depending on the size of your venue and the expected size of the audience, you may need to open the building and performance area entrances earlier than usual to reduce queuing for entry and washroom facilities. 
  • Consider asking audiences to exit the venue in an order that allows those closest to the exit to leave first. Provide signage at exits requesting patrons disperse swiftly to avoid crowding near exits. 
  • Provide hand sanitiser stations at all entry and exit points and throughout the venue, particularly areas that may have high touchpoints or traffic flows. 
  • Minimise the need to touch door handles by chocking doors open with foot operated doorstoppers, where safe and appropriate for emergency exit doors.
  • Arrange any furniture to allow and encourage physical distancing (noting patrons are not required to distance from people from their family unit or household). Remove or tape-off furniture that is excessive to the venue’s adjusted capacity. Keep in mind that patrons with accessibility requirements may need priority access to furniture. 
  • Ticket ripping should be eliminated to avoid contact– use scanners or sight tickets upon entry.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation if the venue is indoors. 

Standing audiences 

You should provide 4 square metres of space per person, even where audiences are standing and implement measures to keep workers, performers and patrons 1.5 metres apart.

To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing:

  • implement measures to restrict audience size to allow 4 square metres per person
  • create and promote policies and procedures for the safety of any patrons who feel unable to physically distance due to the behaviour of other audience members
  • use floor markings and signage to indicate how much space audience members should allow each other
  • at ticketed events, consider a numbered grid to allocate standing areas to individuals or groups, similar to the way seats are allocated in seated venues. This could also facilitate control of traffic into and out of the venue allowing you to plan and stagger entry and exit to the venue, similar to plane boarding.
  • Consider the times when the bar, tickets and merchandise is available, to manage the movement of patrons.

Seated audiences

Where performances take place in seated venues or alongside sit-down dining, implement measures to provide 4 square metres of space per person, with at least 1.5 metres between tables to keep groups of patrons apart from each other. 

To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing:

  • Reduce the number of seats and tables available to enable them to be adequately spaced out, allowing for clear walkways for patrons and staff. If seats or tables cannot be removed, identify and label those that cannot be used to maintain physical distancing.
  • Remove flyers, magazines and other items that might be shared between patrons.
  • If table service, bar services or refreshments are available, consider the use of electronic/app-based ordering systems to reduce interaction between patrons and staff. 
  • Place limits on the size of patron groups, in line with activities permissible in your state or territory.
  • Where larger communal type tables are used, consider changing to smaller tables where possible or implement measures to ensure each group of patrons are spaced at least 1.5 metres from other groups. Alternatively, use markings to show that individuals are unable to sit down in certain spots.
  • Consider a phased/staggered plan for seating patrons in the venue (similar to plane boarding) based on the specific configuration of your venue (e.g. Rows A-G, centre seats first). This may be aided by pre-queuing, foyer paging announcements, or instructions provided to audiences upon entry to the building.
  • The layout of seated areas must allow for staff and patrons 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.  

For more advice about maintaining physical distancing in restaurants, bars and cafes, see our information on physical distancing in the hospitality industry.

Bar and merchandise services

Congregation of patrons for bar services, or to purchase merchandise or tickets, should be minimised to the extent possible, for example by allowing patrons to pre-order or order electronically and creating separate areas within your venue for these services. 

To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing:

  • Where possible, limit the number of workers behind service counters to comply with the 4 square metre ‘rule’.
  • Limit access to behind the counter areas, including any storage areas, to essential staff only. If reasonably practicable, consider separating staff into ‘groups’ according to where they work. For example, food and beverage counter staff should only interact with other food and beverage counter staff to the extent possible.
  • Implement measures to restrict customer numbers in service areas in accordance with 4 square metres per person. Ensure patrons can access bar areas while maintaining physical distancing and implementing customer queuing outside the service area with floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. 
  • Consider assigning a staff member to manage queues and customer access and egress during busier times. 
  • Use separate doors for patron entry and exit, if practicable, to avoid contact between people. If this is not possible, use other control measures, such as markings on the ground to direct the movement/flow of patrons.
  • Adapt menus and pricelists to avoid patrons having to share physical menus or congregate by posting online or by erecting large signs. Wherever possible, use electronic or contactless payment methods and consider allowing patrons to order and pay from their seat to minimise movement. 
  • If you offer online or phone ordering and payment, take extra steps to promote this option to reduce face to face interaction at the premises. Notify patrons only when their orders are ready for collection and request patrons do not arrive prior to that time.
  • Consider using physical barriers where possible, such as installing a plexiglass barrier at the counter and using stanchion and rope barriers to separate customers as they queue. 
  • Set up different areas for ordering and collection – e.g. consider designating an order counter and pick-up counter.
  • Place signs around customer ordering and waiting areas and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. 
  • If changing the physical layout of the service areas is part of your measures, your layout must allow for staff and patrons 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.  

For more advice about maintaining physical distancing between staff behind counter areas, see our information on physical distancing in the hospitality industry.

Back of house

‘Back of house’ or ‘rear of house’ is the term used to refer to the parts of a venue the public cannot access, such as the stage and backstage areas as well as make up, costume and dressing rooms. 

Where it is not reasonably practicable to implement physical distancing measures, you will need to consider other measures to ensure the safety of your workers and others. Contact your state or territory WHS regulator for advice. 

Limit contact between workers. For example, where possible:

  • make any reasonable adjustments to scripts or choreography to minimise contact between performers – for example, cease on-stage kissing, hugging, as well as lifts or othered partnered choreography which cannot be done safely while physical distancing.  
  • if onstage improvisation occurs, provide guidance and limits to ensure performers maintain physical distance.
  • schedule rehearsals so performers can socially distance in rehearsal spaces, change rooms and facilities and allow sufficient time for cleaning.
  • spread out or remove sets, props and equipment on stage, to increase distancing.
  • set up instruments so that musicians can maintain physical distance.  
  • consider ‘grouping’ workers that will have the most interaction with each other together and advising the ‘groups’ to minimise interaction outside of their group. For example, group performers who appear together.

In musical performances limit contact between workers by:

  • allowing sufficient space between equipment and instruments on stage to ensure performers can remain 1.5 meters apart while performing. 
  • use floor markings to assist performers to maintain distance.
  • if the performance space does not allow appropriate performer distancing (for example, if performers would usually be in an orchestra pit), identify alternative spaces in the venue that can be used instead or an alternative venue that can be used.

If you have technicians, such as audio and lighting engineers: 

  • existing site inductions should be revised to include the physical distancing policies at your venue.
  • if reasonably practicable, consider grouping bump in and bump out crew into smaller groups to set up and ‘close up’ the stage after the show or if not reasonably practicable, group all bump in and bump out crew together and encourage them to only interact with each other to the extent possible.
  • encourage sound staff, lighting staff and others with designated areas and equipment where they carry out their role to stay in that area and not undertake non-essential interactions with other staff. Similarly, ensure only essential staff enter the sound and lighting areas.

You must ensure your physical distancing measures do not introduce unsafe working conditions for crew. Consider other safety measures if possible, for example trolleys or lifting devices for heavy equipment. 

It will not always be possible for workers and others to keep 1.5 metres apart at all times at the workplace. For example, workers may have to work closely because of the nature of the task and some tasks require workers to be in close proximity to be carried out safely. If close contact with others is unavoidable, you must implement additional control measures to minimise the risks (e.g. rotating performers more frequently to limit the total amount of close contact). 

Staff gatherings and training

You must provide workers with any training, instruction and supervision necessary to implement the safety measures you have introduced, for example physical distancing requirements. However, consider how this can be provided safely. If possible, postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training. 

If gatherings, meetings or training are essential:

  • use non face-to-face options – 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. 

Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the workplace

  • Non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed.   
  • Contact your delivery suppliers and understand the systems in place for identifying if their employees are unwell and what actions are taken. 
  • Develop a plan for deliveries to minimise the interaction of delivery drivers with workers and patrons and communicate this to delivery suppliers, drivers and employees. 
  • 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 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 sanitised 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 staff are delivering orders to waiting patrons in vehicles outside the premises or they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task), 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 

My workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres when performing work. Does this mean they cannot perform work?

It will not always be possible for workers and patrons to keep 1.5 metres apart at all times at the workplace. For example, workers may have to work closely with each other or others because of the nature of the task and some tasks require workers to be in close proximity to be carried out safely, such as when moving heavy equipment, makeup artists applying makeup to a performer, or when more than one worker is required in a sound booth. 

Working in close contact increases the risk of workers being exposed to COVID-19. You must consider whether the work task must be completed or could be rescheduled to a later date. If the task must be completed and your workers, others (such as patrons) will be in close contact, you must undertake a risk assessment to determine what control measures are reasonably practicable in the circumstances to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks from COVID-19. 

For example, if close contact with others is unavoidable, you must implement other control measures such as: 

  • minimising the number of people within an area at any time. Limit access to the workplace or parts of the workplace to essential workers and patrons only 
  • moving work tasks to different areas of the workplace if possible 
  • considering separating workers into dedicated teams and have them work the same shift or work in a particular area, and 
  • ensuring each worker has their own equipment or tools.

Do I need to provide personal protective equipment to workers who are in close contact with each other?

You must ensure workers comply with physical distancing requirements where possible. In circumstances where the nature of the task requires workers and patrons or workers to be in close contact, you must put control measures in place that minimise the time workers spend with each other or with patrons in the workplace. You must also ensure workers and patrons are practicing good hygiene.

If you have a situation where, despite other control measures, workers will be in close contact with each other or with patrons for longer than the recommended time (i.e more than 15 minutes face-to-face cumulative over the course of a week or more than 2 hours in a shared closed space), consider the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and a mask.  

Workers must be trained in the proper use of PPE. Be aware of WHS risks that may arise as a result of workers using and wearing PPE.

Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a 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. 

 

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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