Note: Restrictions have been in place that may impact accommodation services. These restrictions are being relaxed in different jurisdictions at different times. Accommodation services must only operate to the extent permissible in each state or territory they are located. The information below outlines measures which cover all aspects of the operations of accommodation services - depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your accommodation service..
Physical distancing (also referred to as ‘social distancing’) refers to the requirement that people distance themselves from others. The current advice from the Department of Health is that everyone must keep at least 1.5 metres apart from others (outside of their family unit) where possible. In addition, in a given space, there must be 4 square metres of space per person where possible.
You should also consider whether you are required to comply with any physical distancing measures issued under public health directions in your state or territory. See also our information on public health directions – COVID-19 for links to enforceable government directions in your state or territory.
Why is physical distancing important?
Physical distancing is necessary because the most likely way of catching the virus is by breathing in micro-droplets from another person sneezing, coughing, or exhaling. By ensuring there is 4 square metres of space per person and maintaining a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres from others where possible, you will reduce the likelihood of exposure to micro-droplets of others.
Current health advice is that everyone, including people at workplaces, must implement physical distancing measures wherever possible.
How do I make sure there is 4 square metres of space per person?
To achieve the 4 square metre ‘rule’ you would:
- calculate the area of the room (e.g. length of room in metres x width of room in metres = area of room in square metres), and
- divide the area of the room by 4.
For example, if you had a room that was 160 square metres in size, you should only allow up to 40 people in the room, to allow each person to have 4 square metres of space.
Note: you also must comply with any gathering size limits in place under public health directions in your state or territory.
How do I make sure there is 1.5 metres between people?
You should consider and make adjustments to the layout of the workplace and your workflows to enable workers and guests to keep at least 1.5 metres apart. For example, this could be achieved by, spreading out furniture, or considering floor and/or wall markings and signage to identify 1.5 metres distancing requirements.
You should also review tasks and processes that usually require close interaction and identify ways to modify these to increase physical distancing between workers and workers and guests where it is practical and safe to do so.
Do I need to do both? That is, make sure there is 4 square metres per person and physical distancing of 1.5 metres?
Yes. You need to do what you can to make sure there is 4 square metres in your workplace per person and keep everyone at least 1.5 metres apart, where possible.
My workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres when performing work. Does this mean they cannot perform work?
It will not always be possible for workers and guests to keep 1.5 metres apart at all times at the workplace. For example, workers may have to work closely with each other or others because of the nature of the task and some tasks require workers to be in close proximity to be carried out safely, such as a chef supporting an apprentice to safely perform a new skill.
Working in close contact increases the risk of workers being exposed to COVID-19. You must consider whether the work task must be completed or could be rescheduled to a later date. If the task must be completed and your workers or workers and guests will be in close contact, you must undertake a risk assessment to determine what control measures are reasonably practicable in the circumstances to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks from COVID-19. For example, if close contact with others is unavoidable, you must implement other control measures such as:
- minimising the number of people within an area at any time. Limit access to the workplace or parts of the workplace to essential workers and guests only
- staggering sitting times to minimise number of patrons in dine-in areas at any one time
- moving work tasks to different areas of the workplace if possible
- considering separating workers into dedicated teams and have them work the same shift or work in a particular area, and
- ensuring each worker has their own equipment or tools.
Do I need to provide personal protective equipment to workers who are in close contact with each other?
You must ensure workers comply with physical distancing requirements where possible. In circumstances where the nature of the task requires workers and guests or workers to be in close contact, you must put control measures in place that minimise the time workers spend with each other or with guests in the workplace. You must also ensure workers and guests are practicing good hygiene.
If you have a situation where, despite other control measures, workers will be in close contact with each other or with guests for longer than the recommended time (i.e more than 15 minutes face to face cumulative over the course of a week or more than 2 hours in a shared closed space), consider the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and a mask.
Workers must be trained in the proper use of PPE. Be aware of WHS risks that may arise as a result of workers using and wearing PPE.
What physical distancing measures do I need to implement in my workplace?
Below are measures to ensure physical distancing is achieved at accommodation providers, such as hotels, motels, serviced apartments, hostels, bed and breakfasts and caravan parks. Not all activities may be currently permissible in your state or territory and therefore may not be relevant to your organisation at this time. You should check what activities are permissible in your state or territory, as well as limits on gathering sizes and specific physical distancing requirements applicable to your business. Only operate based on what activities are permissible. See also our information on public health directions – COVID-19 for links to enforceable government directions in your state or territory.
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. See also our information on consultation and the Model Code of Practice: Work Health and Safety Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination.
Some accommodation providers offer additional services, such as courtesy buses or other transport, gyms, sit-down dining, day spas and beauty salons. For physical distancing measures specific to those services, refer to the following pages:
Guests that are self-isolating at your accommodation service
Some accommodation services may be hosting guests that are self-isolating after returning from overseas. Where this is the case, always follow the advice of public health authorities to keep workers, guests and visitors safe. In general:
- ensure self-isolating guests are placed in rooms that are further away from high-traffic areas and any shared amenities. Guests that are self-isolating cannot use any shared amenities
- ensure guests that are self-isolating are aware they must not have contact with other guests or staff
- food services staff should arrange for contactless delivery of food and drinks (e.g. outside the room door) to minimise direct exposure to a guest who is self-isolating, and
- undertake a risk assessment to determine the most appropriate control measures for maintaining physical distancing during routine room cleaning, servicing and other personal guest services such as laundry.
For further information and assistance you can contact the health department in your state or territory, or your jurisdictional work health and safety regulator.
Routine guest services
Physical distancing should be maintained between workers and guests when undertaking front-of-house tasks such as taking reservations, checking-in and checking-out guests, as well as providing concierge services, assistance and answering questions.
- Where possible, maximise physical distancing by limiting the number of workers and guests in guest service areas at any one time by:
- staggering guest check-in and check-out times where possible
- utilising technology or other processes to enable guests to complete check-in and check-out online and use keyless entry if possible or have express key pick-up/drop-off points, and
- encouraging guests to call reception or the concierge for any assistance, rather than visiting in person.
- Direct workers and guests who are not part of the same family unit to keep 1.5 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing:
- put signs around the service areas and implement clear queuing systems with floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and guests of physical distancing requirements. Consider whether signage in different languages or with pictures is needed to communicate with any workers for whom English is a second language.
- consider the use of physical barriers between workers and guests at reception/concierge desks if appropriate, and
- require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction. For example, communicating with porters or housekeeping staff.
For public areas, where guests traditionally congregate such as hotel lobbies you will need to implement measures to manage traffic flows and numbers of guests congregating.
- Determine how many people are able to use particular areas at a time based on physical distancing requirements.
- When guests check-in, encourage them to minimise time spent congregating in public areas during their stay. This could be reinforced through signage in public areas.
- Implement measures to monitor the number of persons in public areas and request that guests return to their rooms or move to another area if there are too many people congregating in a particular area.
- Put signs around public areas, including corridors to remind guests and workers of physical distancing requirements and create floor markings in areas where guests may congregate that provide a minimum 1.5 metre guide. Consider whether signage in different languages or with pictures is needed to communicate with any workers for whom English is a second language.
- Create specific walkways in public areas with one way traffic flows where practical and appropriate. Where possible place these walkways in areas furthest away from where workers are stationed. If possible, designate separate doors for guests and workers. You may also wish to have doors designated for entry to, and exit from, the building.
- Spread out any furniture in public areas to maximise distancing and consider removing chairs and tables if adequate distancing is not able to be achieved.
- If changing the physical layout of public areas, your layout must allow for workers and guests to enter, exit and move about both under normal conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Even if workers, guests and others only spend a short amount of time in a lift each day, they are still at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 when using a lift.
- There is no requirement to provide 4 square metres of space per person in lifts, however you must still ensure, as far as you reasonably can, that people maintain physical distancing in lifts and lift waiting areas.
- Safe use of lifts is best achieved through a combination of measures, determined in consultation with workers, other employers in the building and the building owner/manager. This includes:
- if possible, reducing the number of workers, guests and others who need to use the lift at the same time (e.g. by promoting use of stairs if safe to do so and encouraging guests and workers to wait for the next lift, where possible). If possible you may also wish to consider allocating certain lifts for workers and others for guests.
- implementing physical distancing measures in the lift waiting area including queueing systems, floor markings and advising of passenger limits for each lift
- ensuring that when in the lift people maintain physical distance to the extent possible and practice good hygiene including cough and sneezing etiquette and washing hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser after exiting the lift.
- displaying signage to promote physical distancing and hand hygiene measures.
- Hotels accommodating guests who have recently arrived from overseas and are checking in for the purpose of isolation should put measures in place for the safe use of lifts by guests on the way to their room. Direct these guests not to share a lift with workers or other persons and to minimise physical contact with surfaces. Also ensure increased cleaning of lifts takes place. See also our information on cleaning.
- If workers, guests or others are to use the stairs or emergency exits as alternatives to using lifts, you must consider if any new risks may arise (e.g. increased risk of slip trips and falls) and consider how other existing WHS measures will be impacted (e.g. emergency plans and procedures See also our information on emergency plans)
- See also our case study on lifts for further information
- Unless necessary, only one worker should attend a guest’s room to provide room service, such as delivering food. If possible, arrange to leave the food at the room door for the guest to pick up and take inside.
- Implement measures so that workers, to the extent possible, do not need to enter a guests’ room while it is occupied. For example, room service meals or beverages could be left outside the room for the guest to collect after knocking or following a phone call to advise the food has been delivered. If that is not practical, request that guests maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres from your workers when they are in the room. For example, trolleys could be used to assist in this distancing and guests could pick up their own trays from the trolley.
- If reasonably practicable, you could also leave door stoppers in each room or provide these to service staff so self-shutting hotel room doors can be kept open while the service person enters the room, rather than the guest holding the door open.
- Consider implementing alternatives to guests having to sign the room service bill. Where this is not possible, the worker should place the bill on an appropriate surface and step away while the guest signs – request that the guest use their own pen or the pen that is provided in a room.
- Where rooms are equipped with a minibar, consider removing items that cannot be cleaned between guest use of the room and cleaning all other minibar items after a guest checks out.
- Request that guests leave the room while housekeeping is being undertaken. Where guests are present, housekeeping should move to the next room and return when guests are not in the room.
- Provide housekeeping workers with their own tools and equipment where possible – e.g. cleaning trolleys, to minimise the need for close contact with other workers. Where close contact cannot be avoided, provide housekeeping staff with appropriate masks, gloves or PPE – see our information on PPE.
- Where practical and safe to do so, implement processes so that only a single worker cleans a room at a time. Where more than one worker is required to perform housekeeping tasks safely in a room, direct workers to maintain physical distancing where possible or minimise close contact to the extent possible.
- Ensure you consult with workers and their representatives on these changes and any potential consequences, such as housekeeping tasks taking longer to complete.
- For further information on cleaning to minimise the risk of COVID-19, see our cleaning webpage.
Shared guest amenities
- For accommodation service providers such as caravan parks, hostels and Bed and Breakfasts that provide shared guest amenities such as bathrooms and communal kitchen and eating areas, you need to ensure that physical distancing is maintained by guests while using these amenities (if the guests do not come from the same household).
- Calculate the number of people that can fit in a shared area following the 4 square metres rule and place this number on a sign at the entrance to the room.
- If your accommodation service has communal sleeping quarters such as dormitories or shared cabins, accommodating persons other than members of the same household, ensure each person has at least 4 square metres of space. This may mean not allowing all beds within the shared sleeping quarters to be filled.
- Encourage guests to use shared amenities, such as kitchens and bathrooms, at off-peak times to reduce any high demand that occurs at specific times. Consider implementing a system for guests to sign-up to use kitchen and bathroom amenities within specific timeslots.
- Where relevant and appropriate, consider allowing guests to eat meals they prepare in their room, where appropriate, to reduce the number of people sharing eating areas. For places such as caravan parks and camp grounds with communal kitchens, encourage guests to take prepared food back to their caravans or campsites rather than use communal eating areas.
- Where practicable, spread out kitchen appliances to reduce the number of people in the meal preparation area.
- Move dining tables and seating so that they are spaced 1.5 metres apart.
- Put signs around shared amenities and install floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance.
- Close shared amenities while cleaning is being undertaken to maintain distancing between workers and guests.
- Encourage guests to minimise the time they spend using bathroom facilities. For example, where possible encourage guest to apply cosmetics using a mirror in their room rather than the bathroom.
If your accommodation service provides recreation facilities such as pools, tennis courts, games rooms, BBQ areas etc, you need to ensure that physical distancing is maintained by guests while using these amenities, unless they are from the same household.
- Calculate the number of people that can fit in a shared enclosed area following the 4 square metres rule and place this number on a sign at the entrance.
- Spread out furniture such as pool tables and video game machines in games rooms, and chairs/tables in the pool area to maximise spacing and consider removing furniture if adequate distancing is not able to be achieved.
- Only permit groups that are staying together to use recreational facilities (except pools), including BBQ facilities, at one time – implement a booking system to manage this.
- Put signs around recreational facilities and install floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance.
- Close recreational facilities while cleaning is being undertaken to maintain distancing between workers and guests.
Staff only areas
- Direct workers to maintain 1.5 metres physical distancing from each other in back office or staff only areas. To help achieve this:
- limit worker numbers by facilitating working from home for office/administrative staff, where you can
- split or stagger workers’ shifts so that there is no overlap of staff arriving at and leaving the workplace.
- consider having work groups so that the same group of workers work and have their rest breaks together.
- put signs around staff areas and create floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance
- limit physical interactions between workers, and workers and other persons – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors
- require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction.
- reduce the number of workers utilising staff common areas at a given time – e.g. by staggering meal breaks and start times.
- spread out furniture in staff areas, including workspaces or common areas to the extent possible, and
- consider providing separate amenities for workers and others in the workplace – for example separate bathroom facilities for workers and guests.
If changing the physical layout of the workplace, your layout must allow for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.
Staff gatherings and training
- Postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training.
- If gatherings, meetings or training are essential:
- use non face-to-face options to conduct – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing
- if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to
- hold the gathering, meeting or training in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart and with 4 square metres of space per person – e.g. outdoors or in large conference rooms
- limit the number of attendees in a gathering, meeting or training. This may require, for example, multiple training sessions to be held, and
- ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors, for example by limiting the use of recirculated air and/or opening windows and doors where possible.
Deliveries and contractors attending the workplace
- Non-essential visits to the workplace such as non-essential maintenance work and non-essential deliveries should be cancelled or postponed.
- Minimise the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible.
- Delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace, to provide maintenance or repair services or perform other essential activities, should be given clear instructions of your physical distancing requirements while they are on site.
- Ensure handwashing facilities, or if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available for workers after physically handling deliveries.
- Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods such as mobile phones to communicate with your workers wherever possible.
- Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered.
- Use, and ask delivery drivers and contractors to use, electronic paper work where possible, to minimise physical interaction. Where possible, set up alternatives to requiring signatures. For instance, see whether a confirmation email or a photo of the loaded or unloaded goods can be accepted as proof of delivery or collection (as applicable). If a pen or other utensil is required for signature you can ask that the pen or utensil is cleaned or disinfected before use. For pens, you may wish to use your own.
On-going review and monitoring
- If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks (e.g. because they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task), you need to manage those risks too. Consult with workers and their representatives in relation to measures to manage any new risks.
- For example, changes to processes to maintain physical distancing may cause stress and anxiety among guests that may increase the risk of work-related violence. You can manage this risk by ensuring all signage indicates that work-related violence in response to new physical distancing measures (or for other reasons) will not be tolerated. Our work-related violence webpage has more information.
- Put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of physical distancing measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective.
Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a lunch break or when travelling to and from work?
Yes. Workers must always comply with any state or territory public health directions or orders. This includes maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres between people.
In some states and territories there are strict limitations on gatherings in public places. This means that in some circumstances, workers cannot eat lunch together in a park or travel together in a vehicle to and from work.
You should refer to your state or territory health authority for further information on specific restrictions in place under public health directions or orders in your state or territory.
My workers need to travel in a vehicle together for work purposes. How do they practice physical distancing?
You must reduce the number of workers travelling together in a vehicle for work purposes. You should ensure that only two people are in a 5 seat vehicle – the driver and a worker behind the front passenger seat. Only one worker should be in a single cab vehicle.
These measures may mean:
- more of your vehicles are on the road at one time
- more workers are driving and for longer periods than usual (if driving by themselves).
Because of this, you should review your procedures and policies for vehicle maintenance and driver safety to ensure they are effective and address all possible WHS risks that arise when workers drive for work purposes.
If workers are required to travel together for work purposes and the trip is longer than 15 minutes, air conditioning must be set to external airflow rather than to recirculation or windows should be opened for the duration of the trip.
You must also clean vehicles more frequently, no matter the length of the trip, but at least following each use by workers. See also our information on cleaning.