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.  

Private by-appointment inspections

  • Provide each person with 4 square metres of space in enclosed areas of a property in accordance with general health advice.  
    • 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 clients and other persons at a property. For example, while showing clients a property:
    • request that the owners or tenants are not present
    • limit client numbers by asking them not bring friends or family members
    • limit the number of agents showing the property
    • limit the number of persons in specific rooms at a time, particularly smaller spaces such as bathrooms – for example, request that clients view rooms one at a time
    • if offering multiple inspections in a day, schedule appointment times so that there is a gap in between each to avoid interaction between clients coming and going and to allow cleaning of high touch surfaces such as door handles.
    • if appointments are running behind schedule, call the next client to let them know and ask them to delay their arrival, and
    • explore the use of virtual property tours so that in-person inspections may be completed quicker.
  • Maintain 1.5 metres of distance between your agents and clients. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing: 
    • provide clients with information in advance of appointments outlining physical distancing expectations and measures that are in place.
    • request and monitor that clients maintain physical distancing from your agents while inspecting the property. Your agents could wear a badge with a visual reminder of physical distancing requirements 
    • limit physical interactions between your agents and clients – e.g. by providing property flyers, contracts and building inspection reports electronically rather than providing hard copies at the inspection 
    • promote the use communication by phone or email for any client interactions following the inspection, and
    • keep accurate records of those entering properties for tracking purposes should this later be required by health authorities.

Open Houses

  • Where possible, encourage private by-appointment inspections rather than open houses to limit the number of people at the premises.
  • When conducting open house inspections of a property you should also consider and implement the measures outlined above in relation to private by‑appointment inspections where appropriate.
  • In addition, limit the number of clients and other persons at a property or within rooms within the property. This could be achieved by: 
    • capping the number of clients for each open house by increasing the number of open houses or creating multiple viewing sessions and establishing a process for clients to register to attend specific sessions.
    • consider extending inspection times to allow for progressive viewing
    • encourage clients to restrict their group numbers by requesting they not bring friends or family members
    • implement strict caps on the number of clients viewing a particular room at a time and monitor adherence to this. For smaller rooms such as bathrooms, you may need to restrict access to one client or one client family group at a time. Communicate these requirements as people enter the home or you can use signs to indicate maximum capacity for each room.
  • Direct your agents 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:
    • put signs around the property to emphasise the need to maintain 1.5 metres distance. Your agent could also wear badges as a visual reminder to clients of physical distancing requirements 
    • implement measures to manage traffic flow throughout the property, particularly around chokepoints such as narrow hallways. Where possible, create a one-way flow of traffic through the property and use different doors for clients to enter and exit.
    • Implement queuing arrangements outside the property to control numbers of clients entering and use wall or floor markings to maintain 1.5 metres distancing.
    • where multiple agents are present, spread them out throughout the property and assign them specific areas to reduce the need for agents to move throughout the property – agents can be responsible for client interaction within their assigned area, as well as monitoring client compliance with physical distancing measures
    • limit physical interactions between your agents and clients – e.g. by providing property flyers, contracts and building inspection reports electronically rather than providing hard copies at the open house 
    • promote the use communication by phone or email for any client interactions following the inspection, and
    • keep accurate records of those entering properties for tracking purposes should this later be required by health authorities.

Auctions

  • Where an auction is proceeded by an open house inspection, also consider the measures outlined above.
  • Consider the most appropriate location to hold an auction for a property that will best enable physical distancing to be achieved. You should:
    • consider whether the property has a space (preferably an outdoor space) that is large enough to hold the number of agents and clients expected to be at an auction with physical distancing requirement in place
    • where the property does not have a suitable space that is large enough, consider holding the auction at an appropriate off-site location
    • develop contingency plans to deal with situations where auction attendance is greater than expected – for example, implementing restrictions for only registered bidders to enter.
  • Limit the number of agents and clients present at the auction. This could be achieved by:
    • limiting the number of agents to only those that are necessary for the running of the auction
    • implementing strict registration requirements and processes, so that only registered bidders and any support persons are present at the auction.
  • Direct your agents 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:
    • put signs around the auction area and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance where bidders will be standing. Your agents could wear a badge as a visual reminder to clients of physical distancing requirements 
    • implement pre-registration processes to reduce to need for this to occur on the day. For on-site bidder registration, implement queuing measures with wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance
    • assign agents to particular areas and bidders to reduce the number of agents interacting with multiple bidders
    • limit physical interactions between your agents and clients – e.g. by providing property flyers, contracts and building inspection reports electronically rather than providing hard copies at the auction
    • promote the use communication by phone or email for any client interactions in the lead up, during or following the auction where possible, and
    • keep accurate records of those entering properties for tracking purposes should this later be required by health authorities.

Property management

When showing prospective tenants a property you should also consider and implement the measures outlined above in relation to private by-appointment inspections and open houses where appropriate. In addition:

  • Limit instances where your agents are required to visit rental properties and where visits are necessary limit the people at the property. For example:
    • encourage tenants to video or photograph any faults and email them to their property manager with an explanation of the problem
    • communicate with tenants via phone or email wherever possible
    • when visiting the property, in instances where interaction is not required with the tenant, request that the tenant wait outside or in another room where appropriate. If interaction is required, request that only one tenant be present, and
    • cancel or delay any non-essential property maintenance.
  • When visiting properties – for example to undertake inspections – ensure your property managers and tenants keep 1.5 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice.
  • Where you need to arrange for tradespersons to attend the property to fix faults or undertake home maintenance, ensure the tradespersons are aware of the measures required for physical distancing. You can refer them to our information for Trades and home maintenance, which also includes health monitoring scripts for having conversations with tenants.

Real estate offices - Worker and client interactions and work tasks 

  • Where possible, provide each person with 4 square metres of space in enclosed areas in accordance with general health advice.  
    • 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.  
    • Where the nature of work means you are not able to provide 4 square metres of space per person, you need to implement other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  
  • To help you achieve 4 square metres of space per person (or where not reasonable, to achieve the maximum space per person) limit the number of people in your office by: 
    • facilitating working from home, where you can 
    • using other communication methods such as phone or email to interact with clients and other agents or office workers, where possible
    • seeing clients by appointment only and holding appointments in larger rooms where possible
    • asking clients not to bring friends or family members to appointments at the office, and
    • if appointments are running behind schedule, ringing the next client to let them know and request that they delay their arrival.
  • Direct agents, office 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 reception and the wider office and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. Your agents and office workers could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other of physical distancing requirements, and 
    • limit physical interactions between agents, office workers and clients – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors. 
  • 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. Where not possible, reduce the amount of time workers spend in close contact. See also our information on what to do if your workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres

Layout of the office

  • You may need to redesign the layout of the workplace and your workflows to enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart to continue performing their duties. This can be achieved by, where possible: 
    • restricting workers and others to certain pathways or areas, and 
    • spreading out furniture or plant to increase distancing.  
  • Consider floor and/or wall markings and signage to identify 1.5 metres distancing requirements. 

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

Staff gatherings and training

  • Postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training. 
  • If gatherings, meetings or training are essential: 
    • use non face-to-face options to conduct – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing.
    • if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to.
    • hold the gathering, meeting or training 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, open windows or adjust air-conditioning for more ventilation throughout the room, where possible.

Office facilities 

  • Reduce the number of workers utilising common areas at a given time – e.g. by staggering meal breaks and start times. 
  • Spread out furniture in common areas. If changing the physical layout of the workplace, you must ensure the layout allows for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.  
  • Place signage about physical distancing around the workplace. Our website has links to a range of posters and resources (including translated information) 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.   
  • Consider providing separate amenities for workers and others in the workplace – for example separate bathroom facilities for agents/office workers and clients. 

Lifts

  • Ensure workers 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, contractors and visitors attending the workplace

  • Non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed.   
  • Minimise the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible. 
  • Delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace, to provide maintenance or repair services or perform other essential activities, should be given clear instructions of your 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 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 need to travel in a vehicle together for work purposes. How do they practice physical distancing?

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

These measures may mean: 

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

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

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

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

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.  

See also our information on In-home services and trades and home maintenance.

 

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: Restrictions have been in place for the real estate industry. These restrictions are being relaxed in different jurisdictions at different times. Real estate organisations must only operate to the extent permissible in each state or territory they provide services. The information below outlines measures which cover all aspects of the real estate industry - depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your organisation.

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.  

Private by-appointment inspections

  • Provide each person with 4 square metres of space in enclosed areas of a property in accordance with general health advice.  
    • 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 clients and other persons at a property. For example, while showing clients a property:
    • request that the owners or tenants are not present
    • limit client numbers by asking them not bring friends or family members
    • limit the number of agents showing the property
    • limit the number of persons in specific rooms at a time, particularly smaller spaces such as bathrooms – for example, request that clients view rooms one at a time
    • if offering multiple inspections in a day, schedule appointment times so that there is a gap in between each to avoid interaction between clients coming and going and to allow cleaning of high touch surfaces such as door handles.
    • if appointments are running behind schedule, call the next client to let them know and ask them to delay their arrival, and
    • explore the use of virtual property tours so that in-person inspections may be completed quicker.
  • Maintain 1.5 metres of distance between your agents and clients. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing: 
    • provide clients with information in advance of appointments outlining physical distancing expectations and measures that are in place.
    • request and monitor that clients maintain physical distancing from your agents while inspecting the property. Your agents could wear a badge with a visual reminder of physical distancing requirements 
    • limit physical interactions between your agents and clients – e.g. by providing property flyers, contracts and building inspection reports electronically rather than providing hard copies at the inspection 
    • promote the use communication by phone or email for any client interactions following the inspection, and
    • keep accurate records of those entering properties for tracking purposes should this later be required by health authorities.

Open Houses

  • Where possible, encourage private by-appointment inspections rather than open houses to limit the number of people at the premises.
  • When conducting open house inspections of a property you should also consider and implement the measures outlined above in relation to private by‑appointment inspections where appropriate.
  • In addition, limit the number of clients and other persons at a property or within rooms within the property. This could be achieved by: 
    • capping the number of clients for each open house by increasing the number of open houses or creating multiple viewing sessions and establishing a process for clients to register to attend specific sessions.
    • consider extending inspection times to allow for progressive viewing
    • encourage clients to restrict their group numbers by requesting they not bring friends or family members
    • implement strict caps on the number of clients viewing a particular room at a time and monitor adherence to this. For smaller rooms such as bathrooms, you may need to restrict access to one client or one client family group at a time. Communicate these requirements as people enter the home or you can use signs to indicate maximum capacity for each room.
  • Direct your agents 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:
    • put signs around the property to emphasise the need to maintain 1.5 metres distance. Your agent could also wear badges as a visual reminder to clients of physical distancing requirements 
    • implement measures to manage traffic flow throughout the property, particularly around chokepoints such as narrow hallways. Where possible, create a one-way flow of traffic through the property and use different doors for clients to enter and exit.
    • Implement queuing arrangements outside the property to control numbers of clients entering and use wall or floor markings to maintain 1.5 metres distancing.
    • where multiple agents are present, spread them out throughout the property and assign them specific areas to reduce the need for agents to move throughout the property – agents can be responsible for client interaction within their assigned area, as well as monitoring client compliance with physical distancing measures
    • limit physical interactions between your agents and clients – e.g. by providing property flyers, contracts and building inspection reports electronically rather than providing hard copies at the open house 
    • promote the use communication by phone or email for any client interactions following the inspection, and
    • keep accurate records of those entering properties for tracking purposes should this later be required by health authorities.

Auctions

  • Where an auction is proceeded by an open house inspection, also consider the measures outlined above.
  • Consider the most appropriate location to hold an auction for a property that will best enable physical distancing to be achieved. You should:
    • consider whether the property has a space (preferably an outdoor space) that is large enough to hold the number of agents and clients expected to be at an auction with physical distancing requirement in place
    • where the property does not have a suitable space that is large enough, consider holding the auction at an appropriate off-site location
    • develop contingency plans to deal with situations where auction attendance is greater than expected – for example, implementing restrictions for only registered bidders to enter.
  • Limit the number of agents and clients present at the auction. This could be achieved by:
    • limiting the number of agents to only those that are necessary for the running of the auction
    • implementing strict registration requirements and processes, so that only registered bidders and any support persons are present at the auction.
  • Direct your agents 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:
    • put signs around the auction area and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance where bidders will be standing. Your agents could wear a badge as a visual reminder to clients of physical distancing requirements 
    • implement pre-registration processes to reduce to need for this to occur on the day. For on-site bidder registration, implement queuing measures with wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance
    • assign agents to particular areas and bidders to reduce the number of agents interacting with multiple bidders
    • limit physical interactions between your agents and clients – e.g. by providing property flyers, contracts and building inspection reports electronically rather than providing hard copies at the auction
    • promote the use communication by phone or email for any client interactions in the lead up, during or following the auction where possible, and
    • keep accurate records of those entering properties for tracking purposes should this later be required by health authorities.

Property management

When showing prospective tenants a property you should also consider and implement the measures outlined above in relation to private by-appointment inspections and open houses where appropriate. In addition:

  • Limit instances where your agents are required to visit rental properties and where visits are necessary limit the people at the property. For example:
    • encourage tenants to video or photograph any faults and email them to their property manager with an explanation of the problem
    • communicate with tenants via phone or email wherever possible
    • when visiting the property, in instances where interaction is not required with the tenant, request that the tenant wait outside or in another room where appropriate. If interaction is required, request that only one tenant be present, and
    • cancel or delay any non-essential property maintenance.
  • When visiting properties – for example to undertake inspections – ensure your property managers and tenants keep 1.5 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice.
  • Where you need to arrange for tradespersons to attend the property to fix faults or undertake home maintenance, ensure the tradespersons are aware of the measures required for physical distancing. You can refer them to our information for Trades and home maintenance, which also includes health monitoring scripts for having conversations with tenants.

Real estate offices - Worker and client interactions and work tasks 

  • Where possible, provide each person with 4 square metres of space in enclosed areas in accordance with general health advice.  
    • 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.  
    • Where the nature of work means you are not able to provide 4 square metres of space per person, you need to implement other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  
  • To help you achieve 4 square metres of space per person (or where not reasonable, to achieve the maximum space per person) limit the number of people in your office by: 
    • facilitating working from home, where you can 
    • using other communication methods such as phone or email to interact with clients and other agents or office workers, where possible
    • seeing clients by appointment only and holding appointments in larger rooms where possible
    • asking clients not to bring friends or family members to appointments at the office, and
    • if appointments are running behind schedule, ringing the next client to let them know and request that they delay their arrival.
  • Direct agents, office 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 reception and the wider office and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. Your agents and office workers could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other of physical distancing requirements, and 
    • limit physical interactions between agents, office workers and clients – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors. 
  • 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. Where not possible, reduce the amount of time workers spend in close contact. See also our information on what to do if your workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres

Layout of the office

  • You may need to redesign the layout of the workplace and your workflows to enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart to continue performing their duties. This can be achieved by, where possible: 
    • restricting workers and others to certain pathways or areas, and 
    • spreading out furniture or plant to increase distancing.  
  • Consider floor and/or wall markings and signage to identify 1.5 metres distancing requirements. 

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

Staff gatherings and training

  • Postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training. 
  • If gatherings, meetings or training are essential: 
    • use non face-to-face options to conduct – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing.
    • if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to.
    • hold the gathering, meeting or training 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, open windows or adjust air-conditioning for more ventilation throughout the room, where possible.

Office facilities 

  • Reduce the number of workers utilising common areas at a given time – e.g. by staggering meal breaks and start times. 
  • Spread out furniture in common areas. If changing the physical layout of the workplace, you must ensure the layout allows for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.  
  • Place signage about physical distancing around the workplace. Our website has links to a range of posters and resources (including translated information) 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.   
  • Consider providing separate amenities for workers and others in the workplace – for example separate bathroom facilities for agents/office workers and clients. 

Lifts

  • Ensure workers 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, contractors and visitors attending the workplace

  • Non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed.   
  • Minimise the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible. 
  • Delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace, to provide maintenance or repair services or perform other essential activities, should be given clear instructions of your 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 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 need to travel in a vehicle together for work purposes. How do they practice physical distancing?

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

These measures may mean: 

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

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

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

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

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.  

See also our information on In-home services and trades and home maintenance.

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.
 

Do you want to show this page on the main rss feed?
On

Can't find what you're looking for?

Please let us know.

Share this page:

Social

Print or Download Real estate pack

Employer
Small Business
Worker