What physical distancing measures do I need to implement in my workplace?
Below are measures to ensure physical distancing is achieved with respect to on-campus teaching and student accommodation at tertiary education institutions including universities and TAFEs. Due to current restrictions on gatherings, there may be restrictions on the ability to undertake on-campus teaching. Any measures outlined below therefore are provided only for the purpose of informing planning for when restrictions in the relevant state or territory are lifted. You should check what restrictions are in place in your state or territory and only operate based on what activities are permissible.
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.
Worker and student interactions and work tasks
Where possible, provide each person (workers and students) with 4 square metres of space in a room when indoors in accordance with general health advice.
- To achieve this, calculate the area of the room (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 pers 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 practical, to achieve the maximum space per person) limit the number of people on campus by:
- facilitating workers, particularly office/administrative workers and those in shared offices, to work from home, where they can
- continuing to make lectures and tutorials available online where possible and appropriate, to provide alternative options for students, particularly those who may be unwell or in a vulnerable group
- holding classes, workshops, lectures and tutorials in larger theatres and rooms and monitoring the number of people in the space to ensure compliance with the 4 square metre rule
- calculating the number of people allowed in rooms and placing signs at the entrance communicating the maximum number of people permitted at one time
- limiting the number of students that can use labs, animal houses or studios at any one time – e.g. staggering access times
- reducing the number of lectures/tutorials held each day to allow extra time between classes to minimise interactions between students arriving and leaving rooms
- implementing separate entrances and exits into lecture theatres and classrooms where possible or staggering entry and exit times
- advising students to arrive just before their class start time so they can enter the classroom immediately and to leave immediately afterwards to avoid crowding outside rooms and in passageways
- reducing the number of staff and/or students utilising science or computer labs at any one time by utilising every second computer or work area within the lab
- implementing electronic or virtual methods for delivering student administrative and support services where possible and appropriate, and
- postponing non-essential work and activities on campus including sporting and social activities.
Direct workers and students 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
- for outdoor activities ensure the space selected allows for physical distancing of 1.5 meters
- where possible ensure seating in theatres, classrooms, workshops and laboratories is spaced out to allow for physical distancing of 1.5 metres such as only allowing every third seat in theatre style settings to be used and staggering that between rows. Other seats should be clearly marked (e.g. with signage or tape) that they are not to be used
- put signs around the areas where workers and students normally gather such as outside lecture theatres/classrooms, libraries, study spaces, cafes and dining areas and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. University staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other and students of physical distancing requirements
- limit physical interactions between staff and students, where possible, such as undertaking student consultation electronically instead of students visiting lecturers’ or tutors’ offices
- minimise the number of people who travel in campus-provided transport at any one time. Refer to our public transport webpage for further guidance, and
- require staff to use other methods such as mobile phone, radio or teleconference to communicate with each other rather than face to face interaction.
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 and students. Where not possible, reduce the amount of time workers and students spend in close contact.
Where students are required to undertake a clinical placement, vocational placement, or work experience as a component of their studies or training, you must engage with the students and host organisation and assess the risk to these students. Depending on the level of risk, you may need to consider postponing or adjusting the placement and training to ensure health and safety.
Layout of the teaching and common areas
- You may need to redesign the layout of the lecture theatres, classrooms, workshops, study rooms and common areas to enable workers and students to keep at least 1.5 metres apart.
- This can be achieved by, where possible:
- restricting workers and students to certain pathways or areas, and
- removing or spreading out furniture in offices, libraries, study spaces and other common areas to allow for physical distancing. Put signs on walls and tables requiring that furniture not be moved around.
- 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.
- Reduce the number of workers and students utilising common areas at a given time – e.g. by staggering lecture/tutorial times and meal breaks.
- Reduce the number of computers available for use in computer labs or libraries at any one time – e.g. by only allowing every second computer to be used
- Spread out furniture in common areas. If changing the physical layout of common areas, you must ensure the layout allows for workers and students to enter, exit and move about the campus 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 campus. Our website has links to a range of posters and resources to help remind workers, students and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread. Consideration needs to be given to how to communicate with workers and students for who English is not their first language.
- If you have on campus cafes and dining facilities, ensure they are complying with restrictions and requirements set out by the Australian Government or the relevant state or territory authorities, including physical distancing requirements. See specific information on physical distancing control measures in the hospitality industry.
- For other campus services such as retail, early childhood education, libraries or fitness facilities ensure they also are complying with restrictions and requirements set out by the Australian Government or the relevant state of territory authorities, including physical distancing requirements. See also our information on retail, early childhood education, libraries and gyms and fitness centres.
Campus accommodation and residential colleges
Ensure student accommodation facilities are operated in line with public health requirements in your state or territory. Undertake consultation with student residents and provide them with clear information on measures that are being implemented, as well as what actions they should take. This should include information on practicing physical distancing, good hygiene and cleaning. Consideration needs to be given to how to communicate with students for who English is not their first language.
Implement measures to maximise physical distancing in common areas of accommodation facilities and residential colleges.
- Reduce the number of students utilising common areas at a given time – e.g. by implementing a roster for the use of facilities such as dining halls. Consider allowing students to take their meals away to consume in their rooms
- Spread out furniture in common areas. If changing the physical layout of the workplace, you must ensure the layout allows for workers, students and others to enter, exit and move about the area 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 accommodation facilities, including in common areas and bathrooms/shower rooms. Signage should include an indication of maximum occupancy numbers for specific rooms.
- Consider restricting on-site group recreational activities or where undertaken, ensure they are carried out in accordance with public health directions in your state or territory.
- Restrict access to communal facilities and spaces, such as gyms, consistent with current public health directions. Some communal spaces may be able to be modified to enable staff and students to comply with social distancing requirements when using these.
If students are living together and sharing facilities. How do I ensure they maintain physical distancing?
Consider whether it is possible to limit students sharing campus accommodation and facilities, for example by moving students in shared rooms to vacant rooms and minimising the number of students using shared bathrooms.
Where students have to share accommodation and facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms and common rooms, it may not always be reasonably practicable to require these students to maintain a space of 1.5m from each other. To minimise the risks to these students, it would be preferable to treat these students as a unit.
In deciding to treat a group of students as a unit, the unit size should be kept as small as possible, taking into account increased risks of contracting COVID-19 as the number of people in the unit increases.
When you treat students as a unit, they can study and stay together without having to practice physical distancing, although they must practice physical distancing when they can. However, to limit the risk of exposure, they must be isolated as a unit as far as possible from other students and staff. So, for example, they must practice physical distancing when interacting with others not in their unit. The students must also practice good hygiene to reduce the chance of spreading the virus amongst themselves and should not share facilities with other units. Distancing the unit from others on campus will reduce cross-contamination, should one of the students in that unit contract the virus.
As with all students, a student in a unit must inform you if they are unwell. The symptoms of COVID-19 include shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, fatigue and coughing. See also our information on what to do if a person in your workplace is confirmed or is suspected of having COVID-19.
If one student displays symptoms of COVID-19, you must isolate the entire unit. You will not necessarily need to isolate students that are not part of the unit, assuming they have maintained the required physical distancing and practiced good hygiene. Of course, this will depend on how well you have been able to separate the unit from other students on your campus.
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 according to physical distancing requirements. This may require, for example, multiple training sessions to be held, and
- ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors.
Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the campus
- 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.