COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person can acquire the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.   

A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by requiring workers and others to practice good hygiene. Below are measures to ensure good hygiene in your workplace.  

Remember, you must consult with workers and health and safety representatives on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.  

I work in a fashion retail store that allows customers to try on items of clothing before purchase. Do I need to close changing rooms?

No, but you do need to implement measures to minimise the risk of spreading the infection to both staff and other customers as far as it is reasonably practicable to do so. This may include discouraging customers from trying on clothes where possible and implementing a more flexible returns policy to support the closure of, or limited accessibility to, changeroom facilities.

COVID-19 is most commonly spread by a person breathing in respiratory droplets released when an infected person close to them coughs or sneezes. A person can also catch the virus by touching a surface where the live virus material is present, then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

Where customers can try on clothes before they purchase, there are two key ways by which infection can be spread: through contamination of clothing items tried on by multiple people and contamination of coat hangers, and doors, walls and furniture within the changing rooms.

Contamination of clothing items

The risk of infection through contact with fabric or textiles in a retail store is very low. Porous surfaces, such as textiles and fabrics used to make clothes or curtains in a changing area, are likely to dry very quickly if contaminated by, for example, respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Over time as the droplets dry, the germs become inactive and unable to cause infection.

If a large amount of respiratory droplets come into contact with fabric or textiles in the retail store it may be several hours before it dries and any germs become inactive. This could occur for example, if somebody sneezes directly onto fabric at a very close distance. As such, you should still consider implementing measures to reduce the risk of infection through contact with textiles and fabrics if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

For example, you could require customers to return items to a dedicated hanging rack on exiting the changeroom and delay returning these items to the shop floor, for example, until at least the next morning. 

Remind staff to exercise good hygiene after handling clothes, handles, hangers and other items and if possible, consider providing staff with appropriate gloves to handle hangers and clothing that has been tried on. If you choose to provide gloves to staff, you must select the appropriate type of gloves and train staff in their proper use. Our gloves information may assist.

See also our guidance on the meaning of reasonably practicable.

Contamination of items and surfaces within the changing rooms

Overall, the most effective way to minimise the risk of infection with COVID-19 in a retail setting is by ensuring physical distancing, encouraging customers and staff to maintain good hygiene, including regular hand washing, and undertaking appropriate cleaning and disinfecting. Our webpage on cleaning and our cleaning guide provides useful information on cleaning and disinfecting measures that may help limit the spread of the virus.

Additional steps that may help minimise the spread of infection in the changing rooms at your store include: 

  • if possible, rotating the staff member/s responsible for the changerooms and/or handling and returning clothes to the shelves 
  • using only every second changing stall if there are multiple stalls in close proximity
  • requiring customers who are queuing to use the changerooms to keep 1.5 metres apart. Put signs around the changeroom area and create wall or floor markings to identify the 1.5 metre distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and customers of the physical distancing requirements 
  • limiting the number of customers allowed in the changing area at a time so that physical distancing requirements can be met 
  • removing seating from in and around the changing rooms
  • encouraging customers to have family and friends wait outside the changing room rather than go in with them 
  • putting in place hygiene steps before someone touches any clothing or footwear (for example providing hand sanitiser for customer use if possible and reminding customers to use it on entry or before they select goods to try on) 
  • requiring customers to re-hang unwanted clothes on hangers themselves and return to designated racks to be returned to the shop floor the next morning, and
  • managing the flow of customers into and out of the changing rooms to allow sufficient time for cleaning to take place on a regular basis. This includes cleaning and disinfecting frequent touch points such as door handles, hangers and hooks. Changing room curtains should be laundered if there is a chance they may have been contaminated. If curtains are made from a material that cannot easily be cleaned, there must be sufficient time given for the curtains to dry and the germs to become inactive. 

If you consider that physical distancing or hygiene requirements are not able to be met in the changing rooms in your store, you should consider closing the changing rooms for the duration of the pandemic.

Is it possible for COVID-19 to spread through multiple customers trying on items of clothing in my store?

It is possible, but the risk of infection through contact with fabric or textiles in a retail store is very low. Porous surfaces, such as textiles and fabrics used to make clothes or curtains in a changing area, are likely to dry very quickly if contaminated by, for example, respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Over time as the droplets dry, the germs become inactive and unable to cause infection. 

However, if a large amount of respiratory droplets come into contact with fabric or textiles in the retail store it may be several hours before it dries and any germs become inactive. This may occur for example, if somebody sneezes directly onto fabric at a very close distance. As such, you should still consider implementing measures to further reduce the risk of infection through contact with textiles and fabrics if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

For example, you could provide a designated area for clothes that have been tried on by customers to be placed if they do not wish to purchase them and wait until the next morning before staff touch the clothes to return them back to the shelves or racks.

I am concerned I will not be able to meet physical distancing and/or hygiene requirements in the changerooms at my store. What do I do?

There are simple steps you can take to help minimise the spread of infection in the changing rooms at your store including: 

  • if possible, rotating the staff member/s responsible for the changerooms and/or handling and returning clothes 
  • using only every second changing stall where there are multiple stalls in close proximity
  • requiring customers who are queuing to use the changerooms to keep 1.5 metres apart. Put signs around the changeroom area and create wall or floor markings to identify the 1.5 metre distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and customers of the physical distancing requirements 
  • limiting the number of customers allowed in the changing area at a time so that physical distancing requirements can be met 
  • removing seating from in and around the changing rooms
  • encouraging customers to have family and friends wait outside the changing room rather than go in with them 
  • putting in place hygiene steps before someone touches any clothing or footwear (for example providing hand sanitiser for customer use if possible and reminding customers to use it on entry or before they select goods to try on) 
  • requiring customers to re-hang unwanted clothes on hangers themselves and return to designated racks to be returned to the shop floor the next morning, and
  • managing the flow of customers into and out of the changing rooms to allow sufficient time for cleaning to take place on a regular basis. This includes cleaning and disinfecting frequent touch points such as door handles, hangers and hooks. Changing room curtains should be laundered if there is a chance they may have been contaminated. If curtains are made from a material that cannot easily be cleaned, there must be sufficient time given for the curtains to dry and the germs to become inactive.

If it is not possible to implement these controls in your business, it may be necessary to close changerooms during the pandemic.

I am concerned that if I close the changerooms or implement measures that impact customer access to the changerooms my staff may be exposed to aggressive or abusive customers. What can I do?

Where you have decided to close your changerooms or implement measures that impact customer access (e.g. longer wait times) you should take measures to inform customers of the new arrangements when they enter the store.

Having clear information about the measures you have taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 can help to manage and reduce customer frustration, stress or anxiety about any changes and may reduce the risk of customer aggression and violence towards workers. 

For example, you may wish to: 

  • erect prominent signage at changing rooms to explain the measures you have in place to limit the spread of COVID-19
  • display signage clearly setting out any amended returns policy if you choose to adopt one so customers are immediately aware of the new arrangements in place to offset any inconvenience arising through new arrangements for accessing changerooms, and
  • ensure signage clearly states that violence and aggression will not be tolerated.

You can find more information on how to manage the risk of work-related violence on our webpage.

Worker and visitor hygiene

You must direct your workers and visitors to the workplace to practice good hygiene while at the workplace. Good hygiene requires everyone to wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (palms, fingers, nails and back of hands) and drying them completely, preferably with clean, single-use paper towels. If paper towels are unavailable, other methods such as electric hand dryers can be used, however, hands will still need to be dried completely.

Everyone must wash and dry their hands: 

  • before and after eating 
  • after coughing or sneezing 
  • after going to the toilet, and  
  • when changing tasks and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.  

An alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient must be used as per the manufacturer’s instructions when it is not possible to wash hands. You should use the same procedure to rub your hands with sanitiser for 20-30 seconds. Alcohol-free hand rubs have not been shown to be effective against COVID-19 and experts recommend against using them.

Good hygiene also requires everyone at the workplace to, at all times: 

  • cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow or a clean tissue (no spitting) 
  • avoid touching their face, eyes, nose and mouth 
  • dispose of tissues and cigarette butts hygienically, e.g. in closed bins 
  • wash and dry their hands completely before and after smoking a cigarette  
  • clean and disinfect shared equipment and plant after use 
  • wash body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day, and 
  • have no intentional physical contact, for example, shaking hands and patting backs. 

To enhance good hygiene outcomes:  

  • develop infection control policies in consultation with your workers. These policies should outline measures in place to prevent the spread of infectious diseases at the workplace. Communicate these policies to workers
  • encourage customers to pay for their shopping electronically, including contactless payment or tap-and-go payments where possible
  • have customers pack their own shopping if they are using re-usable shopping bags
  • provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser in appropriate locations for customers to use, such as entries and exits, customer service desks, high traffic areas like lifts and travelators, outside toilets and food courts
  • train workers on the importance of washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them correctly, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, before entering and exiting a common area 
  • place posters near handwashing facilities showing how to correctly wash and dry hands (for example, if hand dryers are used, place posters advising that hands should be dried completely before finishing) and how to clean hands with sanitiser 
  • inform workers of workplace hygiene standards that are expected when utilising common areas (cleaning up after yourself, placing rubbish in bins provided, avoiding putting items such as phones on meal surfaces, etc.)
  • use signage, screen networks, information directories and public announcements to remind customers and visitors to practice regular hand washing, use hand sanitiser and practice good cough/sneeze hygiene.    

You should put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of hygiene measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective.  

What do I need to consider when providing hygiene facilities?

You must ensure there are adequate and accessible facilities to achieve good hygiene and that they are in good working order, are clean and are otherwise safe.

You may need to provide additional washing facilities, change rooms and dining facilities. You must also consider whether there are an adequate number of hand washing and drying stations, in convenient locations, to sustain the increase in workers’ practicing good hygiene. You may need to provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser in appropriate locations, such as entry and exits, if there are limited hand washing facilities available. 

In shopping centres, hand sanitiser should be available for use by customers and visitors at key locations such as entry/exit points, outside toilets, food courts and high traffic areas such as lifts, travelators, escalators and outside supermarkets and large retailers.

Washroom facilities must be properly stocked and have adequate supplies of toilet paper, soap, water, and drying facilities (preferably single-use paper towels). They must also be kept clean and in good working order.

When determining what facilities you need consider the number of workers on site, the shift arrangements and when access to these facilities is required.  If you had temporarily down-sized worker numbers in response to COVID-19 and these will now be increased, you must take this into account to determine the facilities you need before workers return to work. 

I need to create a new eating or common area. What should I consider when creating these areas?

If creating a new eating or common area to enable physical distancing, you must ensure these areas are accessible from the workplace and adequately equipped (e.g drinking water, rubbish bins) and protected from the elements, contaminants and hazards.  

You should also consider opening windows or adjusting air-conditioning for more ventilation in common areas, and limiting or reducing recirculated air-conditioning where possible.  

For further information on providing adequate and accessible facilities, including providing facilities for a temporary, mobile or remote workplace see the Model Code of Practice: Managing the work environment and facilities.

Why are paper towels preferred over hand dryers?

Paper towels are preferable as they can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by drying the hands more thoroughly than hand dryers.

Hand dryers can still be used, however, there is an increased risk of transmission if hands are not dried properly. 

I am providing paper towels in my workplace. What else should I do?

Providing paper towels to dry your hands after washing them is better than using hand dryers because they can dry your hands more thoroughly. 

If you provide single used paper towels at your workplace, remember:

  • the paper towels should be replenished as required, and
  • used paper towels should be disposed of in a waste bin that is regularly emptied to keep the area clean, tidy and safe.

Wastes (including used paper towels) should be double bagged and set aside in a safe place for at least 72 hours before disposal into general waste facilities. For further information regarding cleaning, please refer to our cleaning guide.

What if I can’t provide paper towels?

If paper towels cannot be provided, then hand dryers may be used to dry hands. You must train workers on how to dry their hands. Placing posters near hand dryers may assist with communicating the need for hands to be dried completely. If hands are not dried completely, good hygiene will not be achieved, and the hand washing will be ineffective. 

Frequently touched areas of the hand dryers (i.e. buttons to activate the drying mechanism of the hand dryer) and the entire body of the dryer should be cleaned regularly. Nearby surfaces (such as the sink and taps) should also be cleaned regularly to remove any germs that may have been spread when drying hands. 

Other useful resources 

COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person can acquire the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.   

A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by requiring workers and others to practice good hygiene. Below are measures to ensure good hygiene in your workplace.  

Remember, you must consult with workers and health and safety representatives on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.  

I work in a fashion retail store that allows customers to try on items of clothing before purchase. Do I need to close changing rooms?

No, but you do need to implement measures to minimise the risk of spreading the infection to both staff and other customers as far as it is reasonably practicable to do so. This may include discouraging customers from trying on clothes where possible and implementing a more flexible returns policy to support the closure of, or limited accessibility to, changeroom facilities.

COVID-19 is most commonly spread by a person breathing in respiratory droplets released when an infected person close to them coughs or sneezes. A person can also catch the virus by touching a surface where the live virus material is present, then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

Where customers can try on clothes before they purchase, there are two key ways by which infection can be spread: through contamination of clothing items tried on by multiple people and contamination of coat hangers, and doors, walls and furniture within the changing rooms.

Contamination of clothing items

The risk of infection through contact with fabric or textiles in a retail store is very low. Porous surfaces, such as textiles and fabrics used to make clothes or curtains in a changing area, are likely to dry very quickly if contaminated by, for example, respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Over time as the droplets dry, the germs become inactive and unable to cause infection.

If a large amount of respiratory droplets come into contact with fabric or textiles in the retail store it may be several hours before it dries and any germs become inactive. This could occur for example, if somebody sneezes directly onto fabric at a very close distance. As such, you should still consider implementing measures to reduce the risk of infection through contact with textiles and fabrics if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

For example, you could require customers to return items to a dedicated hanging rack on exiting the changeroom and delay returning these items to the shop floor, for example, until at least the next morning. 

Remind staff to exercise good hygiene after handling clothes, handles, hangers and other items and if possible, consider providing staff with appropriate gloves to handle hangers and clothing that has been tried on. If you choose to provide gloves to staff, you must select the appropriate type of gloves and train staff in their proper use. Our gloves information may assist.

See also our guidance on the meaning of reasonably practicable.

Contamination of items and surfaces within the changing rooms

Overall, the most effective way to minimise the risk of infection with COVID-19 in a retail setting is by ensuring physical distancing, encouraging customers and staff to maintain good hygiene, including regular hand washing, and undertaking appropriate cleaning and disinfecting. Our webpage on cleaning and our cleaning guide provides useful information on cleaning and disinfecting measures that may help limit the spread of the virus.

Additional steps that may help minimise the spread of infection in the changing rooms at your store include: 

  • if possible, rotating the staff member/s responsible for the changerooms and/or handling and returning clothes to the shelves 
  • using only every second changing stall if there are multiple stalls in close proximity
  • requiring customers who are queuing to use the changerooms to keep 1.5 metres apart. Put signs around the changeroom area and create wall or floor markings to identify the 1.5 metre distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and customers of the physical distancing requirements 
  • limiting the number of customers allowed in the changing area at a time so that physical distancing requirements can be met 
  • removing seating from in and around the changing rooms
  • encouraging customers to have family and friends wait outside the changing room rather than go in with them 
  • putting in place hygiene steps before someone touches any clothing or footwear (for example providing hand sanitiser for customer use if possible and reminding customers to use it on entry or before they select goods to try on) 
  • requiring customers to re-hang unwanted clothes on hangers themselves and return to designated racks to be returned to the shop floor the next morning, and
  • managing the flow of customers into and out of the changing rooms to allow sufficient time for cleaning to take place on a regular basis. This includes cleaning and disinfecting frequent touch points such as door handles, hangers and hooks. Changing room curtains should be laundered if there is a chance they may have been contaminated. If curtains are made from a material that cannot easily be cleaned, there must be sufficient time given for the curtains to dry and the germs to become inactive. 

If you consider that physical distancing or hygiene requirements are not able to be met in the changing rooms in your store, you should consider closing the changing rooms for the duration of the pandemic.

Is it possible for COVID-19 to spread through multiple customers trying on items of clothing in my store?

It is possible, but the risk of infection through contact with fabric or textiles in a retail store is very low. Porous surfaces, such as textiles and fabrics used to make clothes or curtains in a changing area, are likely to dry very quickly if contaminated by, for example, respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Over time as the droplets dry, the germs become inactive and unable to cause infection. 

However, if a large amount of respiratory droplets come into contact with fabric or textiles in the retail store it may be several hours before it dries and any germs become inactive. This may occur for example, if somebody sneezes directly onto fabric at a very close distance. As such, you should still consider implementing measures to further reduce the risk of infection through contact with textiles and fabrics if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

For example, you could provide a designated area for clothes that have been tried on by customers to be placed if they do not wish to purchase them and wait until the next morning before staff touch the clothes to return them back to the shelves or racks.

I am concerned I will not be able to meet physical distancing and/or hygiene requirements in the changerooms at my store. What do I do?

There are simple steps you can take to help minimise the spread of infection in the changing rooms at your store including: 

  • if possible, rotating the staff member/s responsible for the changerooms and/or handling and returning clothes 
  • using only every second changing stall where there are multiple stalls in close proximity
  • requiring customers who are queuing to use the changerooms to keep 1.5 metres apart. Put signs around the changeroom area and create wall or floor markings to identify the 1.5 metre distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and customers of the physical distancing requirements 
  • limiting the number of customers allowed in the changing area at a time so that physical distancing requirements can be met 
  • removing seating from in and around the changing rooms
  • encouraging customers to have family and friends wait outside the changing room rather than go in with them 
  • putting in place hygiene steps before someone touches any clothing or footwear (for example providing hand sanitiser for customer use if possible and reminding customers to use it on entry or before they select goods to try on) 
  • requiring customers to re-hang unwanted clothes on hangers themselves and return to designated racks to be returned to the shop floor the next morning, and
  • managing the flow of customers into and out of the changing rooms to allow sufficient time for cleaning to take place on a regular basis. This includes cleaning and disinfecting frequent touch points such as door handles, hangers and hooks. Changing room curtains should be laundered if there is a chance they may have been contaminated. If curtains are made from a material that cannot easily be cleaned, there must be sufficient time given for the curtains to dry and the germs to become inactive.

If it is not possible to implement these controls in your business, it may be necessary to close changerooms during the pandemic.

I am concerned that if I close the changerooms or implement measures that impact customer access to the changerooms my staff may be exposed to aggressive or abusive customers. What can I do?

Where you have decided to close your changerooms or implement measures that impact customer access (e.g. longer wait times) you should take measures to inform customers of the new arrangements when they enter the store.

Having clear information about the measures you have taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 can help to manage and reduce customer frustration, stress or anxiety about any changes and may reduce the risk of customer aggression and violence towards workers. 

For example, you may wish to: 

  • erect prominent signage at changing rooms to explain the measures you have in place to limit the spread of COVID-19
  • display signage clearly setting out any amended returns policy if you choose to adopt one so customers are immediately aware of the new arrangements in place to offset any inconvenience arising through new arrangements for accessing changerooms, and
  • ensure signage clearly states that violence and aggression will not be tolerated.

You can find more information on how to manage the risk of work-related violence on our webpage.

Worker and visitor hygiene

You must direct your workers and visitors to the workplace to practice good hygiene while at the workplace. Good hygiene requires everyone to wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (palms, fingers, nails and back of hands) and drying them completely, preferably with clean, single-use paper towels. If paper towels are unavailable, other methods such as electric hand dryers can be used, however, hands will still need to be dried completely.

Everyone must wash and dry their hands: 

  • before and after eating 
  • after coughing or sneezing 
  • after going to the toilet, and  
  • when changing tasks and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.  

An alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient must be used as per the manufacturer’s instructions when it is not possible to wash hands. You should use the same procedure to rub your hands with sanitiser for 20-30 seconds. Alcohol-free hand rubs have not been shown to be effective against COVID-19 and experts recommend against using them.

Good hygiene also requires everyone at the workplace to, at all times: 

  • cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow or a clean tissue (no spitting) 
  • avoid touching their face, eyes, nose and mouth 
  • dispose of tissues and cigarette butts hygienically, e.g. in closed bins 
  • wash and dry their hands completely before and after smoking a cigarette  
  • clean and disinfect shared equipment and plant after use 
  • wash body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day, and 
  • have no intentional physical contact, for example, shaking hands and patting backs. 

To enhance good hygiene outcomes:  

  • develop infection control policies in consultation with your workers. These policies should outline measures in place to prevent the spread of infectious diseases at the workplace. Communicate these policies to workers
  • encourage customers to pay for their shopping electronically, including contactless payment or tap-and-go payments where possible
  • have customers pack their own shopping if they are using re-usable shopping bags
  • provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser in appropriate locations for customers to use, such as entries and exits, customer service desks, high traffic areas like lifts and travelators, outside toilets and food courts
  • train workers on the importance of washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them correctly, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, before entering and exiting a common area 
  • place posters near handwashing facilities showing how to correctly wash and dry hands (for example, if hand dryers are used, place posters advising that hands should be dried completely before finishing) and how to clean hands with sanitiser 
  • inform workers of workplace hygiene standards that are expected when utilising common areas (cleaning up after yourself, placing rubbish in bins provided, avoiding putting items such as phones on meal surfaces, etc.)
  • use signage, screen networks, information directories and public announcements to remind customers and visitors to practice regular hand washing, use hand sanitiser and practice good cough/sneeze hygiene.    

You should put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of hygiene measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective.  

What do I need to consider when providing hygiene facilities?

You must ensure there are adequate and accessible facilities to achieve good hygiene and that they are in good working order, are clean and are otherwise safe.

You may need to provide additional washing facilities, change rooms and dining facilities. You must also consider whether there are an adequate number of hand washing and drying stations, in convenient locations, to sustain the increase in workers’ practicing good hygiene. You may need to provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser in appropriate locations, such as entry and exits, if there are limited hand washing facilities available. 

In shopping centres, hand sanitiser should be available for use by customers and visitors at key locations such as entry/exit points, outside toilets, food courts and high traffic areas such as lifts, travelators, escalators and outside supermarkets and large retailers.

Washroom facilities must be properly stocked and have adequate supplies of toilet paper, soap, water, and drying facilities (preferably single-use paper towels). They must also be kept clean and in good working order.

When determining what facilities you need consider the number of workers on site, the shift arrangements and when access to these facilities is required.  If you had temporarily down-sized worker numbers in response to COVID-19 and these will now be increased, you must take this into account to determine the facilities you need before workers return to work. 

I need to create a new eating or common area. What should I consider when creating these areas?

If creating a new eating or common area to enable physical distancing, you must ensure these areas are accessible from the workplace and adequately equipped (e.g drinking water, rubbish bins) and protected from the elements, contaminants and hazards.  

You should also consider opening windows or adjusting air-conditioning for more ventilation in common areas, and limiting or reducing recirculated air-conditioning where possible.  

For further information on providing adequate and accessible facilities, including providing facilities for a temporary, mobile or remote workplace see the Model Code of Practice: Managing the work environment and facilities.

Why are paper towels preferred over hand dryers?

Paper towels are preferable as they can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by drying the hands more thoroughly than hand dryers.

Hand dryers can still be used, however, there is an increased risk of transmission if hands are not dried properly. 

I am providing paper towels in my workplace. What else should I do?

Providing paper towels to dry your hands after washing them is better than using hand dryers because they can dry your hands more thoroughly. 

If you provide single used paper towels at your workplace, remember:

  • the paper towels should be replenished as required, and
  • used paper towels should be disposed of in a waste bin that is regularly emptied to keep the area clean, tidy and safe.

Wastes (including used paper towels) should be double bagged and set aside in a safe place for at least 72 hours before disposal into general waste facilities. For further information regarding cleaning, please refer to our cleaning guide.

What if I can’t provide paper towels?

If paper towels cannot be provided, then hand dryers may be used to dry hands. You must train workers on how to dry their hands. Placing posters near hand dryers may assist with communicating the need for hands to be dried completely. If hands are not dried completely, good hygiene will not be achieved, and the hand washing will be ineffective. 

Frequently touched areas of the hand dryers (i.e. buttons to activate the drying mechanism of the hand dryer) and the entire body of the dryer should be cleaned regularly. Nearby surfaces (such as the sink and taps) should also be cleaned regularly to remove any germs that may have been spread when drying hands. 

Other useful resources 

COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person can acquire the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.   

A key way you can protect yourself, your colleagues and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by practising good hygiene.  

Good hygiene requires washing your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them completely, preferably with clean, single-use paper towels. If paper towels are unavailable, other methods such as electric hand dryers can be used, however, hands will still need to be dried completely.

You must wash and dry your hands: 

  • before and after eating 
  • after coughing or sneezing 
  • after going to the toilet, and  
  • when changing tasks and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.  

When it is not possible to wash hands, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient must be used as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Good hygiene also requires you to, at all times: 

  • cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a clean tissue (and no spitting) 
  • avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth 
  • dispose of tissues and cigarette butts hygienically, e.g. in closed bins 
  • wash and dry your hands completely before and after smoking a cigarette  
  • clean and disinfect shared equipment and plant after use 
  • wash body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day, and 
  • have no intentional physical contact, for example, shaking hands and patting backs. 

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