COVID-19 for Workplaces Pack
For the Employer in the Conferences, Events and Exhibitions industry

Total supporting material in this pack: 68

Date of print/download 16 October 2021

Physical distancing

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

What is physical distancing and how does it prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Physical distancing (also referred to as ‘social distancing’) refers to the requirement that people distance themselves from others.  

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through contact with droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly into the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the droplets and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands.

Current health advice states that in order to reduce the risk of contact and droplet spread from a person, directly or indirectly, and from contaminated surfaces, people should maintain physical distance of at least 1.5 metres, practice good hand hygiene and engage in routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. 

Physical distancing can also include limits on the number of people allowed in enclosed spaces (for example, one person per 4 square metres of space) as well as limits on gathering sizes. These requirements differ across states and territories, industries, business sizes and types of premises. 

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
  • 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.  

You should also refer to our other industry guidance, for measures to implement within your own physical workplace. For example, see our guidance for offices for information on measures to implement for your business’ office building. 

General measures

  • Ensure attendance numbers allow for physical distancing and provide sufficient space per person in accordance with state or territory requirements, with at least 1.5 metres between attendees. 
    • Work out how many people can be in the venue overall as well as discrete enclosed areas of the venue.
    • For exhibitions and events consider limiting the number or size of exhibitions or stalls where reasonably practicable. 
    • Consider whether you can stagger the number of activities held at the same time during a conference, event or exhibition to limit the number of attendees gathered at the same time. 
  • For exhibitions and events where there is no fixed seating consider, if reasonably practicable, setting up a booking system to enable a certain number of attendees to enter the venue for a set period of time. Depending on the size of the event or exhibition, provide adequate time between one group ending and another one commencing to allow enough time for attendees to leave and appropriate cleaning and disinfecting of high touch point items to occur. If setting up this system communicate this to attendees on relevant social media platforms and on your website.
  • Consider moving events, conferences and exhibitions to a larger space or outdoors if possible.
  • Provide access to additional facilities such as toilets if possible. For outdoor venues consider additional portable toilets to avoid congestion of attendees. 
  • Consider whether you could have a ‘hybrid model’ that combines a live event with online attendance. 
  • Ask attendees to provide their contact details at the point of ticket purchase and retain these records for the period required in your state. This may assist local health authorities if contact tracing is required and may be legally required in your state or territory under health and emergency directions. 
    • If you have a membership program, keep member details up to date. 
    • If it is a non-ticketed event or exhibition you may need to implement strategies to obtain attendee’s information, such as pre-registering for the event through event website or encouraging attendees to download the Australian government’s COVIDSafe app. Consult with your relevant state or territory public health authority for assistance. 
  • Advise attendees about venue requirements in advance. This can be achieved by sending emails to all registered attendants and through web pages advertising the event. The information should include:
    • when the venue doors will be open
    • whether food and drink venues and cloaking services will be available 
    • how attendees will be asked to queue and exit the venue
    • any other relevant rules or new systems in place that you will be asking attendees to observe. 
  • Ensure that any changes you make maintain disability access and safe thoroughfares for all attendees. This includes access when entering and moving through the venue, visibility of pathways and access to new instructions.
  • Place signage about physical distancing around the venue and on event maps. See our range of posters and resources to help remind workers and attendees of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread. Clear, illustrated signage may assist communicating physical distancing requirements to attendees with language, hearing or literacy barriers. Also consider the need to light signage if your conference, event or exhibition occurs during night time.
  • Site or event maps should indicate usable areas including maximum number of people allowed at the venue, location of hand washing and hand sanitising stations, first aid and isolation areas and queuing locations (e.g. for entrances, food outlets etc). 
  • Consider setting up isolation areas in case an attendee presents with COVID-19 symptoms or fails pre-screening. Create a plan so you know what to do where you suspect an attendee or worker has the virus or has been exposed. See also our information on hygiene and COVID-19 in your workplace
  • Controls that rely on workers advising and reminding attendees of physical distancing are less effective and may introduce other risks, such as work-related violence and aggression. Physical control measures such as barriers to separate attendees and reconfiguring the layout of the venue are generally more effective. Workers must be trained in processes and procedures to support physical distancing, including what to do if attendees do not follow these requirements (e.g. notify security or call police), and how to report incidents. You should consider the risks and whether security personnel may be required. 
  • You must review the effectiveness of control measures and adapt them or introduce additional control measures if existing arrangements are not effective and reliable.  Ensure signage (including event maps) and policies indicate work-related violence will not be tolerated. See also our information on work-related violence and information on vulnerable workers if you have workers, including volunteers who may be considered vulnerable due to their age or other factors. 

Set up and pack up of venues (bump-in and bump-out)

Bumping in and out of conferences, exhibitions or events may require the attendance of multiple people in the venue at the same time including venue staff, people running the conference or event, exhibitor or stall holders and their suppliers as well as other contractors such as catering services and building and construction trades.  You will need to consult and cooperate with these businesses to identify the work tasks, processes and situations where people will be in close contact with each other when setting up and packing up the venue. This may include:

  • installation and removal of displays and exhibitions
  • setting up of tables and chairs
  • setting up of audio-visual equipment, e.g. lighting and staging
  • food preparation areas
  • the delivery of goods.

You will need to assess the level of risk that people will be exposed to the virus and what measures should be implemented to address the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. 

You will need to undertake these steps for each event, conference and exhibition. 

Measures that may assist with physical distancing during bumping in and out include:

  • minimising the number of people within an area at any time. Limit access to the venue or parts of the venue to essential workers only. Restrict public access during set up and pack up
  • recording all workers attendance at the venue for contact tracing and encouraging workers to download the Australian government’s COVIDSafe app 
  • staggering the bumping in and out process. For example, staggering the setting up of exhibitions and stalls. Schedule time between installations and removal so that there is no overlap of workers arriving and leaving the venue or a particular part of the venue or have different entrances and exits to avoid interaction
  • require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction
  • put signs around the venue and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance or specific walkways. Workers could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other of physical distancing requirements
  • existing site inductions should be revised to include physical distancing measures at your venue.

Where it is not reasonably practicable to implement physical distancing measures, for example during the installation and pack up of displays and exhibitions you will need to consider other measures to ensure the safety of your workers and others. You will need to consult with the relevant exhibitor or stall holder and their suppliers where this issue arises. See our information on what to do if workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from each other or others and our information on personal protective equipment (PPE). For specific information contact your state or territory WHS regulator for advice. 

Deliveries to the venue

Consult with your clients, exhibitors or stall holders and their suppliers to develop a plan for deliveries to minimise interactions that occur when deliveries take place. The plan could include measures such as:

  • contacting delivery suppliers to understand the systems in place for identifying if their employees are unwell and what actions are taken
  • encouraging deliveries to the venue occur outside the operational hours of the conference, event or exhibition
  • minimising the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible
  • ensuring handwashing facilities, or if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available after workers physically handle deliveries
  • directing delivery drivers to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods such as mobile phones to communicate with workers wherever possible. Allow drivers access to toilet facilities as needed
  • directing delivery drivers to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered
  • using and asking delivery drivers to use electronic paperwork 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
  • the plan should be communicated to all relevant workers and delivery suppliers.

Entry, exiting and intermissions

  • Consider how attendees will attend the conference event or exhibition. If there are car park facilities, ensure that attendees can maintain their distance from each other. Provide signage, floor decals and bollards to direct crowds and indicate distancing requirements. Also consider the need to light signage if your conference, event or exhibition occurs during night time.
  • Liaise with public transport officials to ensure attendees maintain physical distancing to and from public transport hubs if there will be a large number of attendees at the conference event or exhibition. 
  • Stagger entry and exit times if reasonably practicable. 
  • Use signs at the entrance to the venue to indicate the maximum number of attendees permitted at a time. Additional signs should be used at the entry to spaces within the venue, such as separate function rooms and bathrooms. 
  • Provide signage, floor decals and bollards to indicate distancing requirements wherever queuing might occur, including entrances into the building and specific conference rooms or exhibition areas and food and bathroom facilities. Also consider the need to light signage if your conference, event or exhibition occurs during night time.
  • Use signs to designate single-direction entry and exit points. You could use additional entry/exit doors into the venue if it is possible and safe to do so (for example, by using emergency exit doors or adding exits for outdoor venues). 
  • Depending on the size of your venue and the expected size of the group attending the conference event or exhibition, you may need to open the building entrances earlier than usual to reduce queuing for entry and washroom facilities. 
  • Consider whether you can implement measures to maximise physical distancing during your registration or check in process. For example:
    • introduce pre-payment of tickets and registration
    • for ticketed events use contactless technology such as electronic self-scanning or ticket scanning devices
    • for conferences and events that require registration of attendance set up an online system if possible
    • if workers are required for ticketing or registration for a conference, event or exhibition implement measures to maximise physical distancing including partitions between the worker and attendees and put up signage, floor decals and bollards to indicate distancing requirements wherever queuing might occur
    • extend entry and registration times and implement measures that result in attendees staggering their arrival time 
    • ensure foyers or waiting areas do not become crowded by opening doors earlier and encouraging attendees to be seated or allow access to open areas while they wait
    • for conferences and events eliminate physical packages or information/show bags by sending this information to attendees in electronic form. For example, send presentation notes to attendees’ emails before or make them available on a website during the presentation
    • if conferences or events have multiple seminars or activities running, consider staggering start and finish times of these seminars or activities so attendees are not concurrently using foyer space or facilities.
  • Consider implementing measures to limit the number of attendees gathering around and accessing lockers, cloakrooms or pigeon holes at the same time. Where possible, workers should not handle an attendees’ personal items. If workers do handle these items, they must wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser after doing so.
  • Ensure foyers or waiting areas do not become crowded during intermissions or break times by implementing the above measures to opening up additional spaces for attendee. Extend intermissions or breaks to facilitate the safe flow of attendee traffic and access to facilities.
  • For conferences and seated events consider asking attendees to exit the venue in an order that allows those closest to the exit to leave first. Provide signage at exits requesting attendees disperse swiftly to avoid crowding near exits. 
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser stations at all entry and exit points and throughout the venue, particularly areas that may have high touchpoints or traffic flows. 
    • ensure that these are regularly inspected and restocked as needed to ensure adequate supplies.
  • Minimise the need to touch door handles by chocking doors open with foot operated doorstoppers, where safe and appropriate for emergency exit doors.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation if the venue is indoors.

Layout of and movement through conferences events or exhibitions

The layout of areas must allow for staff and attendees to enter, exit and move about the venue both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.  Ensure that any changes you make maintain disability access including when entering and moving through the venue, visibility of pathways and access to new instructions.

Conferences or events – predominately seated

  • Arrange seats and tables to provide sufficient space per person to meet state and territory requirements, and to ensure attendees can keep at least 1.5 metres between each other (noting attendees are not required to distance from people from their family unit or household). Remove or tape-off furniture that is excessive to the venue’s adjusted capacity. Keep in mind that attendees with accessibility requirements may need priority access to furniture. 
  • Where larger communal type tables are used, consider changing to smaller tables where possible or implement measures to ensure each group of attendees are spaced at least 1.5 metres from other groups. Alternatively, use markings to show that individuals are unable to sit down in certain spots.
  • Where tiered seating is used, close every second row and leave at least 1.5 metres between people of different households.
  • Encourage attendees to stay in the same seat or at the same table for the duration of the event or conference or consider ‘grouping’ attendees where possible (e.g attendees from the same organisation) and advising the ‘groups’ to minimise interaction outside of their group. Group work should be conducted in such a way to enable attendees to maintain at least 1.5 metres. 
  • Encourage presenters at conferences or events to stay in one area or if they are to walk around, to ensure they maintain their distance from attendees.
  • Consider limiting the use of paper at your conference or event and identify where measures should be implemented so to reduce close contact between people when using paper. For example butcher’s paper for group work. 
  • Consider a phased/staggered plan for seating attendees in the venue (similar to plane boarding) based on the specific configuration of your venue (e.g. tables nearest to the exit or Rows A-G). This may be aided by pre-queuing, foyer paging announcements, or instructions provided to attendees upon entry to the building.
  • Maximise ventilation by opening doors and windows where possible.
  • For workers in attendance including venue staff and workers running the conference or event:
    • if reasonably practicable, consider grouping workers and encourage them to only interact with each other to the extent possible while still maintaining physical distancing (e.g. taking meal breaks together)
    • encourage workers with designated areas and equipment to stay in that area and not undertake non-essential interactions with other staff. 

Exhibitions and events – predominately free standing

  • Consider the layout of the exhibition or event. You should provide enough space per person to meet any state and territory requirements, allowing for larger spaces between stalls, displays and stands to enable workers and attendees to maintain their distance. 
  • Monitor the total number of attendees in the event or venue to ensure it does not exceed maximum occupancy limits.
  • Put up signs, markings and posters to encourage one way traffic flow. Use signage, screen networks, information directories and public announcements to remind attendees about physical distancing.
  • Implement measures to reduce the number of attendees around stalls, displays or demonstrations. For example:
    • rearrange the stall display or demonstration to enable attendees to maintain their physical distance
    • erect signs and markers on walls and floors to remind attendees to maintain their physical distance 
    • if possible erect physical barriers or put in place a time limit for attendees. You may need to allocate a staff member to manage crowding and erect signage informing attendees of the time limit to help implement this
    • encourage stall holders to stay within their own space
    • place alcohol-based hand sanitiser stations in each stall and away from congregation areas so they don’t create choke points.
  • Where possible, spread out goods or activities to encourage physical distancing between attendees. You may need to consult with exhibitor or stall holders on how they set up their displays or exhibition stands. 
  • Consult with exhibitor or stall holders on limiting interactive activities such as demonstrations to avoid attendees being in close proximity.
  • Consider limiting the use of paper documents (e.g. pamphlets displayed on stalls) to eliminate close contact. Encourage the use of electronic documents instead or display information on large signs or posters for attendees to see. 
  • Assess the need for general seating within the venue and only keep seating if a safe physical distance can be maintained. Consider prioritising seating, for example for the elderly and people with a disability.
  • Maximise ventilation by opening doors and windows where possible.
  • For workers in attendance including venue staff, security, exhibitors and stall holders:
  • If reasonably practicable, consider grouping workers and encourage them to only interact with each other to the extent possible (e.g. taking meal breaks together)
  • Encourage workers with designated areas and equipment to stay in that area and not undertake non-essential interactions with other staff. 

Food and Drinks services

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

Catered events and conferences 

  • If possible, restrict food and drinks to table service only to reduce the movement of attendees and the number of surfaces touched. This includes removing buffet style or ‘serve yourself’ style food services and avoid shared food such as tasting or sample plates at stalls. Eliminate common areas that store cutlery and condiments and have workers provide these to attendees instead.  
  • Consider eliminating the use of communal water jugs and lolly bowls on tables to reduce movement and frequently touched surfaces.  Instead consider other ways attendees can access water such as encouraging attendees to bring their own water bottles or providing each attendee with their own bottled water.
  • Encourage good hand hygiene by requiring attendees to wash their hands with soap and water or, where not practicable, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before eating.
  • Place alcohol-based hand sanitiser stations at food and drinks service areas away from congregation areas so they don’t create choke points.

Food and drinks for purchase by attendees

  • Congregation of attendees for drink or bar services, or to purchase food should be minimised to the extent possible, for example by allowing attendees to pre-order or order electronically and creating separate areas within your venue for these services. 
  • Have a number of food and drink services open where reasonably practicable to disperse crowds.
  • Limit access to behind the counter areas, including any storage areas, to essential staff only. If reasonably practicable, consider separating staff into ‘groups’ according to where they work. For example, food and beverage counter staff should only interact with other food and beverage counter staff to the extent possible.
  • Implement measures to restrict attendee numbers in service areas in accordance with physical distancing requirements in your state or territory. Ensure attendees can access food and drink areas while maintaining physical distancing and implementing queuing outside the service area with floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. 
  • Consider assigning a staff member to manage queues and attendee access and egress during busier times. 
  • Use separate doors for attendee entry and exit, if practicable, to avoid contact between attendees. If this is not possible, use other control measures, such as markings on the ground to direct the movement/flow of attendees.
  • Adapt menus and pricelists to avoid attendees having to share physical menus or congregate by posting online or by erecting large signs. 
  • If you offer online or phone ordering and payment, take extra steps to promote this option to reduce face to face interaction at the premises. Notify attendees only when their orders are ready for collection and request attendees do not arrive in the food and drink area prior to that time.
  • Consider using physical barriers where possible, such as installing a plexiglass barrier at the counter and using stanchion and rope barriers to separate attendees as they queue. 
  • Set up different areas for ordering and collection – e.g. consider designating an order counter and pick-up counter.
  • Place signs around ordering and waiting areas and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. 
  • If changing the physical layout of the service areas is part of your measures, your layout must allow for staff and attendees to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.  
  • For more advice about maintaining physical distancing between staff behind counter areas, see our information on physical distancing in the hospitality industry.

Lifts

  • Even if workers and attendees 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 specific limit to the number of people allowed in a lift, 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:  
    • reducing the number of workers and attendees who need to use the lift at the same time
    • implementing physical distancing measures in the lift waiting area including queueing systems 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
    • placing signage in lifts and lift waiting areas reminding users to practice physical distancing and good hygiene while using and waiting for lifts.
  • If workers and attendees 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.

Staff gatherings and training

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

If gatherings, meetings or training are essential:

  • use non face-to-face options – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing 
  • if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to 
  • hold the gathering, meeting or training in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart– 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 
  • ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors. 

On-going review and monitoring

If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks  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. 

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 workers and attendees to keep at least 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 construction of exhibition stalls or displays. 

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 attendees 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 attendees only 
  • staggering session times to minimise number of attendees 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
  • 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 attendees 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 clients in the workplace. You must also ensure workers and clients 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 clients for longer than the recommended time (i.e. more than 15 minutes face to face cumulative over the course of a week or more than 2 hours in a shared closed space), consider the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and a mask.  

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

Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a 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 at least 1.5 metres between people.  

In some states and territories there may be 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. 
 

Physical distancing

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

What is physical distancing and how does it prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Physical distancing (also referred to as ‘social distancing’) refers to the requirement that people distance themselves from others.  

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through contact with droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly into the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the droplets and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands.

Current health advice states that in order to reduce the risk of contact and droplet spread from a person, directly or indirectly, and from contaminated surfaces, people should maintain physical distance of at least 1.5 metres, practice good hand hygiene and engage in routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. 

Physical distancing can also include limits on the number of people allowed in enclosed spaces (for example, one person per 4 square metres of space) as well as limits on gathering sizes. These requirements differ across states and territories, industries, business sizes and types of premises. 

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
  • 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.  

You should also refer to our other industry guidance, for measures to implement within your own physical workplace. For example, see our guidance for offices for information on measures to implement for your business’ office building. 

General measures

  • Ensure attendance numbers allow for physical distancing and provide sufficient space per person in accordance with state or territory requirements, with at least 1.5 metres between attendees. 
    • Work out how many people can be in the venue overall as well as discrete enclosed areas of the venue.
    • For exhibitions and events consider limiting the number or size of exhibitions or stalls where reasonably practicable. 
    • Consider whether you can stagger the number of activities held at the same time during a conference, event or exhibition to limit the number of attendees gathered at the same time. 
  • For exhibitions and events where there is no fixed seating consider, if reasonably practicable, setting up a booking system to enable a certain number of attendees to enter the venue for a set period of time. Depending on the size of the event or exhibition, provide adequate time between one group ending and another one commencing to allow enough time for attendees to leave and appropriate cleaning and disinfecting of high touch point items to occur. If setting up this system communicate this to attendees on relevant social media platforms and on your website.
  • Consider moving events, conferences and exhibitions to a larger space or outdoors if possible.
  • Provide access to additional facilities such as toilets if possible. For outdoor venues consider additional portable toilets to avoid congestion of attendees. 
  • Consider whether you could have a ‘hybrid model’ that combines a live event with online attendance. 
  • Ask attendees to provide their contact details at the point of ticket purchase and retain these records for the period required in your state. This may assist local health authorities if contact tracing is required and may be legally required in your state or territory under health and emergency directions. 
    • If you have a membership program, keep member details up to date. 
    • If it is a non-ticketed event or exhibition you may need to implement strategies to obtain attendee’s information, such as pre-registering for the event through event website or encouraging attendees to download the Australian government’s COVIDSafe app. Consult with your relevant state or territory public health authority for assistance. 
  • Advise attendees about venue requirements in advance. This can be achieved by sending emails to all registered attendants and through web pages advertising the event. The information should include:
    • when the venue doors will be open
    • whether food and drink venues and cloaking services will be available 
    • how attendees will be asked to queue and exit the venue
    • any other relevant rules or new systems in place that you will be asking attendees to observe. 
  • Ensure that any changes you make maintain disability access and safe thoroughfares for all attendees. This includes access when entering and moving through the venue, visibility of pathways and access to new instructions.
  • Place signage about physical distancing around the venue and on event maps. See our range of posters and resources to help remind workers and attendees of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread. Clear, illustrated signage may assist communicating physical distancing requirements to attendees with language, hearing or literacy barriers. Also consider the need to light signage if your conference, event or exhibition occurs during night time.
  • Site or event maps should indicate usable areas including maximum number of people allowed at the venue, location of hand washing and hand sanitising stations, first aid and isolation areas and queuing locations (e.g. for entrances, food outlets etc). 
  • Consider setting up isolation areas in case an attendee presents with COVID-19 symptoms or fails pre-screening. Create a plan so you know what to do where you suspect an attendee or worker has the virus or has been exposed. See also our information on hygiene and COVID-19 in your workplace
  • Controls that rely on workers advising and reminding attendees of physical distancing are less effective and may introduce other risks, such as work-related violence and aggression. Physical control measures such as barriers to separate attendees and reconfiguring the layout of the venue are generally more effective. Workers must be trained in processes and procedures to support physical distancing, including what to do if attendees do not follow these requirements (e.g. notify security or call police), and how to report incidents. You should consider the risks and whether security personnel may be required. 
  • You must review the effectiveness of control measures and adapt them or introduce additional control measures if existing arrangements are not effective and reliable.  Ensure signage (including event maps) and policies indicate work-related violence will not be tolerated. See also our information on work-related violence and information on vulnerable workers if you have workers, including volunteers who may be considered vulnerable due to their age or other factors. 

Set up and pack up of venues (bump-in and bump-out)

Bumping in and out of conferences, exhibitions or events may require the attendance of multiple people in the venue at the same time including venue staff, people running the conference or event, exhibitor or stall holders and their suppliers as well as other contractors such as catering services and building and construction trades.  You will need to consult and cooperate with these businesses to identify the work tasks, processes and situations where people will be in close contact with each other when setting up and packing up the venue. This may include:

  • installation and removal of displays and exhibitions
  • setting up of tables and chairs
  • setting up of audio-visual equipment, e.g. lighting and staging
  • food preparation areas
  • the delivery of goods.

You will need to assess the level of risk that people will be exposed to the virus and what measures should be implemented to address the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. 

You will need to undertake these steps for each event, conference and exhibition. 

Measures that may assist with physical distancing during bumping in and out include:

  • minimising the number of people within an area at any time. Limit access to the venue or parts of the venue to essential workers only. Restrict public access during set up and pack up
  • recording all workers attendance at the venue for contact tracing and encouraging workers to download the Australian government’s COVIDSafe app 
  • staggering the bumping in and out process. For example, staggering the setting up of exhibitions and stalls. Schedule time between installations and removal so that there is no overlap of workers arriving and leaving the venue or a particular part of the venue or have different entrances and exits to avoid interaction
  • require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction
  • put signs around the venue and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance or specific walkways. Workers could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other of physical distancing requirements
  • existing site inductions should be revised to include physical distancing measures at your venue.

Where it is not reasonably practicable to implement physical distancing measures, for example during the installation and pack up of displays and exhibitions you will need to consider other measures to ensure the safety of your workers and others. You will need to consult with the relevant exhibitor or stall holder and their suppliers where this issue arises. See our information on what to do if workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from each other or others and our information on personal protective equipment (PPE). For specific information contact your state or territory WHS regulator for advice. 

Deliveries to the venue

Consult with your clients, exhibitors or stall holders and their suppliers to develop a plan for deliveries to minimise interactions that occur when deliveries take place. The plan could include measures such as:

  • contacting delivery suppliers to understand the systems in place for identifying if their employees are unwell and what actions are taken
  • encouraging deliveries to the venue occur outside the operational hours of the conference, event or exhibition
  • minimising the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible
  • ensuring handwashing facilities, or if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available after workers physically handle deliveries
  • directing delivery drivers to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods such as mobile phones to communicate with workers wherever possible. Allow drivers access to toilet facilities as needed
  • directing delivery drivers to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered
  • using and asking delivery drivers to use electronic paperwork 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
  • the plan should be communicated to all relevant workers and delivery suppliers.

Entry, exiting and intermissions

  • Consider how attendees will attend the conference event or exhibition. If there are car park facilities, ensure that attendees can maintain their distance from each other. Provide signage, floor decals and bollards to direct crowds and indicate distancing requirements. Also consider the need to light signage if your conference, event or exhibition occurs during night time.
  • Liaise with public transport officials to ensure attendees maintain physical distancing to and from public transport hubs if there will be a large number of attendees at the conference event or exhibition. 
  • Stagger entry and exit times if reasonably practicable. 
  • Use signs at the entrance to the venue to indicate the maximum number of attendees permitted at a time. Additional signs should be used at the entry to spaces within the venue, such as separate function rooms and bathrooms. 
  • Provide signage, floor decals and bollards to indicate distancing requirements wherever queuing might occur, including entrances into the building and specific conference rooms or exhibition areas and food and bathroom facilities. Also consider the need to light signage if your conference, event or exhibition occurs during night time.
  • Use signs to designate single-direction entry and exit points. You could use additional entry/exit doors into the venue if it is possible and safe to do so (for example, by using emergency exit doors or adding exits for outdoor venues). 
  • Depending on the size of your venue and the expected size of the group attending the conference event or exhibition, you may need to open the building entrances earlier than usual to reduce queuing for entry and washroom facilities. 
  • Consider whether you can implement measures to maximise physical distancing during your registration or check in process. For example:
    • introduce pre-payment of tickets and registration
    • for ticketed events use contactless technology such as electronic self-scanning or ticket scanning devices
    • for conferences and events that require registration of attendance set up an online system if possible
    • if workers are required for ticketing or registration for a conference, event or exhibition implement measures to maximise physical distancing including partitions between the worker and attendees and put up signage, floor decals and bollards to indicate distancing requirements wherever queuing might occur
    • extend entry and registration times and implement measures that result in attendees staggering their arrival time 
    • ensure foyers or waiting areas do not become crowded by opening doors earlier and encouraging attendees to be seated or allow access to open areas while they wait
    • for conferences and events eliminate physical packages or information/show bags by sending this information to attendees in electronic form. For example, send presentation notes to attendees’ emails before or make them available on a website during the presentation
    • if conferences or events have multiple seminars or activities running, consider staggering start and finish times of these seminars or activities so attendees are not concurrently using foyer space or facilities.
  • Consider implementing measures to limit the number of attendees gathering around and accessing lockers, cloakrooms or pigeon holes at the same time. Where possible, workers should not handle an attendees’ personal items. If workers do handle these items, they must wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser after doing so.
  • Ensure foyers or waiting areas do not become crowded during intermissions or break times by implementing the above measures to opening up additional spaces for attendee. Extend intermissions or breaks to facilitate the safe flow of attendee traffic and access to facilities.
  • For conferences and seated events consider asking attendees to exit the venue in an order that allows those closest to the exit to leave first. Provide signage at exits requesting attendees disperse swiftly to avoid crowding near exits. 
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser stations at all entry and exit points and throughout the venue, particularly areas that may have high touchpoints or traffic flows. 
    • ensure that these are regularly inspected and restocked as needed to ensure adequate supplies.
  • Minimise the need to touch door handles by chocking doors open with foot operated doorstoppers, where safe and appropriate for emergency exit doors.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation if the venue is indoors.

Layout of and movement through conferences events or exhibitions

The layout of areas must allow for staff and attendees to enter, exit and move about the venue both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.  Ensure that any changes you make maintain disability access including when entering and moving through the venue, visibility of pathways and access to new instructions.

Conferences or events – predominately seated

  • Arrange seats and tables to provide sufficient space per person to meet state and territory requirements, and to ensure attendees can keep at least 1.5 metres between each other (noting attendees are not required to distance from people from their family unit or household). Remove or tape-off furniture that is excessive to the venue’s adjusted capacity. Keep in mind that attendees with accessibility requirements may need priority access to furniture. 
  • Where larger communal type tables are used, consider changing to smaller tables where possible or implement measures to ensure each group of attendees are spaced at least 1.5 metres from other groups. Alternatively, use markings to show that individuals are unable to sit down in certain spots.
  • Where tiered seating is used, close every second row and leave at least 1.5 metres between people of different households.
  • Encourage attendees to stay in the same seat or at the same table for the duration of the event or conference or consider ‘grouping’ attendees where possible (e.g attendees from the same organisation) and advising the ‘groups’ to minimise interaction outside of their group. Group work should be conducted in such a way to enable attendees to maintain at least 1.5 metres. 
  • Encourage presenters at conferences or events to stay in one area or if they are to walk around, to ensure they maintain their distance from attendees.
  • Consider limiting the use of paper at your conference or event and identify where measures should be implemented so to reduce close contact between people when using paper. For example butcher’s paper for group work. 
  • Consider a phased/staggered plan for seating attendees in the venue (similar to plane boarding) based on the specific configuration of your venue (e.g. tables nearest to the exit or Rows A-G). This may be aided by pre-queuing, foyer paging announcements, or instructions provided to attendees upon entry to the building.
  • Maximise ventilation by opening doors and windows where possible.
  • For workers in attendance including venue staff and workers running the conference or event:
    • if reasonably practicable, consider grouping workers and encourage them to only interact with each other to the extent possible while still maintaining physical distancing (e.g. taking meal breaks together)
    • encourage workers with designated areas and equipment to stay in that area and not undertake non-essential interactions with other staff. 

Exhibitions and events – predominately free standing

  • Consider the layout of the exhibition or event. You should provide enough space per person to meet any state and territory requirements, allowing for larger spaces between stalls, displays and stands to enable workers and attendees to maintain their distance. 
  • Monitor the total number of attendees in the event or venue to ensure it does not exceed maximum occupancy limits.
  • Put up signs, markings and posters to encourage one way traffic flow. Use signage, screen networks, information directories and public announcements to remind attendees about physical distancing.
  • Implement measures to reduce the number of attendees around stalls, displays or demonstrations. For example:
    • rearrange the stall display or demonstration to enable attendees to maintain their physical distance
    • erect signs and markers on walls and floors to remind attendees to maintain their physical distance 
    • if possible erect physical barriers or put in place a time limit for attendees. You may need to allocate a staff member to manage crowding and erect signage informing attendees of the time limit to help implement this
    • encourage stall holders to stay within their own space
    • place alcohol-based hand sanitiser stations in each stall and away from congregation areas so they don’t create choke points.
  • Where possible, spread out goods or activities to encourage physical distancing between attendees. You may need to consult with exhibitor or stall holders on how they set up their displays or exhibition stands. 
  • Consult with exhibitor or stall holders on limiting interactive activities such as demonstrations to avoid attendees being in close proximity.
  • Consider limiting the use of paper documents (e.g. pamphlets displayed on stalls) to eliminate close contact. Encourage the use of electronic documents instead or display information on large signs or posters for attendees to see. 
  • Assess the need for general seating within the venue and only keep seating if a safe physical distance can be maintained. Consider prioritising seating, for example for the elderly and people with a disability.
  • Maximise ventilation by opening doors and windows where possible.
  • For workers in attendance including venue staff, security, exhibitors and stall holders:
  • If reasonably practicable, consider grouping workers and encourage them to only interact with each other to the extent possible (e.g. taking meal breaks together)
  • Encourage workers with designated areas and equipment to stay in that area and not undertake non-essential interactions with other staff. 

Food and Drinks services

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

Catered events and conferences 

  • If possible, restrict food and drinks to table service only to reduce the movement of attendees and the number of surfaces touched. This includes removing buffet style or ‘serve yourself’ style food services and avoid shared food such as tasting or sample plates at stalls. Eliminate common areas that store cutlery and condiments and have workers provide these to attendees instead.  
  • Consider eliminating the use of communal water jugs and lolly bowls on tables to reduce movement and frequently touched surfaces.  Instead consider other ways attendees can access water such as encouraging attendees to bring their own water bottles or providing each attendee with their own bottled water.
  • Encourage good hand hygiene by requiring attendees to wash their hands with soap and water or, where not practicable, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before eating.
  • Place alcohol-based hand sanitiser stations at food and drinks service areas away from congregation areas so they don’t create choke points.

Food and drinks for purchase by attendees

  • Congregation of attendees for drink or bar services, or to purchase food should be minimised to the extent possible, for example by allowing attendees to pre-order or order electronically and creating separate areas within your venue for these services. 
  • Have a number of food and drink services open where reasonably practicable to disperse crowds.
  • Limit access to behind the counter areas, including any storage areas, to essential staff only. If reasonably practicable, consider separating staff into ‘groups’ according to where they work. For example, food and beverage counter staff should only interact with other food and beverage counter staff to the extent possible.
  • Implement measures to restrict attendee numbers in service areas in accordance with physical distancing requirements in your state or territory. Ensure attendees can access food and drink areas while maintaining physical distancing and implementing queuing outside the service area with floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. 
  • Consider assigning a staff member to manage queues and attendee access and egress during busier times. 
  • Use separate doors for attendee entry and exit, if practicable, to avoid contact between attendees. If this is not possible, use other control measures, such as markings on the ground to direct the movement/flow of attendees.
  • Adapt menus and pricelists to avoid attendees having to share physical menus or congregate by posting online or by erecting large signs. 
  • If you offer online or phone ordering and payment, take extra steps to promote this option to reduce face to face interaction at the premises. Notify attendees only when their orders are ready for collection and request attendees do not arrive in the food and drink area prior to that time.
  • Consider using physical barriers where possible, such as installing a plexiglass barrier at the counter and using stanchion and rope barriers to separate attendees as they queue. 
  • Set up different areas for ordering and collection – e.g. consider designating an order counter and pick-up counter.
  • Place signs around ordering and waiting areas and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. 
  • If changing the physical layout of the service areas is part of your measures, your layout must allow for staff and attendees to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.  
  • For more advice about maintaining physical distancing between staff behind counter areas, see our information on physical distancing in the hospitality industry.

Lifts

  • Even if workers and attendees 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 specific limit to the number of people allowed in a lift, 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:  
    • reducing the number of workers and attendees who need to use the lift at the same time
    • implementing physical distancing measures in the lift waiting area including queueing systems 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
    • placing signage in lifts and lift waiting areas reminding users to practice physical distancing and good hygiene while using and waiting for lifts.
  • If workers and attendees 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.

Staff gatherings and training

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

If gatherings, meetings or training are essential:

  • use non face-to-face options – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing 
  • if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to 
  • •    hold the gathering, meeting or training in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart and to comply with the density requirements specified in your jurisdiction – 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 
  • ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors. 

On-going review and monitoring

If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks  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. 

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 workers and attendees to keep at least 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 construction of exhibition stalls or displays. 

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 attendees 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 attendees only 
  • staggering session times to minimise number of attendees 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
  • 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 attendees 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 clients in the workplace. You must also ensure workers and clients 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 clients for longer than the recommended time (i.e. more than 15 minutes face to face cumulative over the course of a week or more than 2 hours in a shared closed space), consider the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and a mask.  

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

Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a 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 at least 1.5 metres between people.  

In some states and territories there may be 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. 

 

Physical distancing

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 limits on the number of people allowed in enclosed spaces (for example, one person per 4 square metres of space) as well as limits on gathering sizes. These requirements differ across states and territories, industries, business sizes and types of premises. 

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 may be 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.

About COVID-19

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease that is caused by a newly discovered form of coronavirus.  

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that was unknown before the outbreak that started in Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. Other known forms of coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and cough. 

Other symptoms include headache, sore throat, fatigue, shortness of breath, aches and pains, loss of smell, altered sense of taste, runny nose, chills and vomiting. 

Most people infected with COVID-19 will have a mild to moderate illness and will recover without special medical treatment. Some people, such as those with underlying medical problems or disease and older people, are more likely to suffer from more serious symptoms of the diseases. See also our content on vulnerable workers. 

How is COVID-19 spread? 

  • The most likely way someone will catch the virus is by breathing in micro-droplets a person close to them has released by sneezing, coughing –or just breathing out 
  • A person can, however, also catch it via the hand-to-face pathway: touching a surface where live virus material is present, then touching their mouth, nose or eyes 
  • Spread of COVID-19 is highest from people with symptoms 
  • Spread of COVID-19 before symptoms appear is less common 

More information 

For more information about COVID-19 please see the resources available from the Australian Government Department of Health.  

You can also call the National Coronavirus Help Line on 1800 020 080 if you have questions about COVID-19. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

If you require translating or interpreting services, please call 131 450. 

About COVID-19

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease that is caused by a newly discovered form of coronavirus.  

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that was unknown before the outbreak that started in Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. Other known forms of coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and cough. 

Other symptoms include headache, sore throat, fatigue, shortness of breath, aches and pains, loss of smell, altered sense of taste, runny nose, chills and vomiting. 

Most people infected with COVID-19 will have a mild to moderate illness and will recover without special medical treatment. Some people, such as those with underlying medical problems or disease and older people, are more likely to suffer from more serious symptoms of the diseases. See also our content on vulnerable workers. 

How is COVID-19 spread? 

  • The most likely way someone will catch the virus is by breathing in micro-droplets a person close to them has released by sneezing, coughing –or just breathing out 
  • A person can, however, also catch it via the hand-to-face pathway: touching a surface where live virus material is present, then touching their mouth, nose or eyes 
  • Spread of COVID-19 is highest from people with symptoms 
  • Spread of COVID-19 before symptoms appear is less common 

More information 

For more information about COVID-19 please see the resources available from the Australian Government Department of Health.  

You can also call the National Coronavirus Help Line on 1800 020 080 if you have questions about COVID-19. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

If you require translating or interpreting services, please call 131 450. 

 

About COVID-19

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease that is caused by a newly discovered form of coronavirus.  

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that was unknown before the outbreak that started in Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. Other known forms of coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and cough. 

Other symptoms include headache, sore throat, fatigue, shortness of breath, aches and pains, loss of smell, altered sense of taste, runny nose, chills and vomiting. 

Most people infected with COVID-19 will have a mild to moderate illness and will recover without special medical treatment. Some people, such as those with underlying medical problems or disease and older people, are more likely to suffer from more serious symptoms of the diseases. See also our content on vulnerable workers. 

How is COVID-19 spread? 

  • The most likely way someone will catch the virus is by breathing in micro-droplets a person close to them has released by sneezing, coughing –or just breathing out 
  • A person can, however, also catch it via the hand-to-face pathway: touching a surface where live virus material is present, then touching their mouth, nose or eyes 
  • Spread of COVID-19 is highest from people with symptoms 
  • Spread of COVID-19 before symptoms appear is less common 

More information 

For more information about COVID-19 please see the resources available from the Australian Government Department of Health.  

You can also call the National Coronavirus Help Line on 1800 020 080 if you have questions about COVID-19. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

If you require translating or interpreting services, please call 131 450. 

Cleaning

The main way COVID-19 spreads from person to person is through contact with respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly onto the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. Airborne transmission of COVID-19 can also occur, with the greatest risk in indoor, crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the COVID-19 virus and then touch their own mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands. Research shows that the COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for prolonged periods of time.

A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by implementing appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures for your workplace.

A combination of cleaning and disinfection will be most effective in removing the COVID-19 virus.

Workplaces must be cleaned at least daily. Cleaning with detergent and water is usually sufficient.  Once clean, surfaces can be disinfected. When and how often your workplace should be disinfected will depend on the likelihood of contaminated material being present. You should prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that many people touch.

Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.
 

How to clean and disinfect

Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a surfactant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water. Anything labelled as a detergent will work.

Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. The following disinfectants are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in): alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a list of disinfectant products that are permitted to claim they are effective against COVID-19.

As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. They do not need to be on the TGA list.

Cleaning should start with the cleanest surface first, progressively moving towards the dirtiest surface. When surfaces are cleaned, they should be left as dry as possible to reduce the risk of slips and falls, as well as spreading of viruses and bacteria through droplets.

Before a surface is disinfected, it is important it is cleaned first because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. Disinfectant may not kill the virus if the surface has not been cleaned with a detergent first. 

The packaging or manufacturer’s instructions will outline the correct way to use disinfectant. Disinfectants require time to be effective at killing viruses. If no time is specified, the disinfectant should be left for ten minutes before removing.

You should provide your workers with suitable cleaning and disinfecting products and personal protective equipment, and ensure they are trained on how to use them. 

After cleaning, any single-use personal protective equipment (PPE), disposable cloths and covers should be placed in a plastic bag and disposed of in general waste. Any reusable cleaning equipment, including mop heads and reusable cloths, should be laundered and completely dry before re-use.

Our cleaning guide provides more information on cleaning and disinfecting, including for specific surfaces.

What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a surfactant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water. 

Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. The following disinfectants are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in): alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.

Which areas should be cleaned and disinfected, and how often?

Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning, such as tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities. . Any surfaces that are visibly dirty, or have a spill, should be cleaned as soon as they are identified, regardless of when they were last cleaned. 

You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. At a minimum, frequently touched surfaces workplaces should be cleaned and disinfected at least once daily. If your workplace has many customers or others entering each day, more frequent cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces is recommended. If your workplace is only attended by the same small work crew each day and involves little interaction with other people, routine disinfection in addition to daily cleaning may not be needed.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a list of disinfectant products that are permitted to claim they are effective against COVID-19.

As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. They do not need to be on the TGA list.

Which areas should I prioritise for cleaning?

Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning and disinfection. These include tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities.. You should also prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces which are visibly soiled (dirty) and which are used by multiple people (e.g. trolleys, checkouts, EFTPOS machines).

How often should I do a routine clean?

Regular cleaning is key to minimising the build-up of dust and dirt and allows for effective disinfecting when required.

Cleaning of frequently touched surfaces must be undertaken at least once per day. Cleaning should be more frequent if surfaces become visibly dirty, there is a spill, or if they are touched by a different people (for example, if your workplace has a high volume of workers, customers or visitors that are likely to touch surfaces such as tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities). If your workplace operates in shifts, it should be cleaned between shifts. If equipment is shared between workers, it may also be cleaned between uses, where practicable.

For more information, refer to our cleaning guide.

Cleaning and disinfecting should also be done after a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID 19 has recently been at the workplace, in line with advice from your state or territory’s health authority. For more information, including the contact details for your local health authority please see What to do if a worker has COVID-19.

How often should I do a routine disinfection?

You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. You should consider disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least once daily. 

All surfaces should be cleaned with detergent prior to disinfection. Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant. 

What’s the difference between frequently touched and infrequently touched surfaces?

A frequently touched surface is a surface that is touched multiple times each day, regardless of whether it is touched by the same person or different people. Door handles and taps are examples of frequently touched surfaces.

An infrequently touched surface is any surface that is not touched more than once each day. If you are unsure, you should treat your surface as if it is frequently touched.

Does every surface need to be cleaned and disinfected?

You don’t need to clean and disinfect every surface. The virus is transmitted by breathing in droplets produced by an infected person coughing or sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces, so you only need to clean surfaces that are touched or otherwise contaminated. This is true whether the touching is deliberate (e.g. a door knob) or incidental (e.g. brushing a door when reaching for the door knob). There are some surfaces that are never touched (e.g. ceilings and cracks and crevices in machinery) and these do not need to be cleaned and disinfected.

Do I need to clean and disinfect areas or equipment daily if no one has entered the area or used the equipment recently?

Not necessarily. If a surface has not had human contact for several days, it is less likely to be a potential source of infection. You may wish to consider how frequently a particular surface is touched or otherwise comes into human contact when deciding how often an area or equipment needs to be cleaned and disinfected. However care should be taken, as research shows that the COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for prolonged periods of time. If there is any doubt, it is better to clean and disinfect an area rather than risk infection.

You can refer to our cleaning guide for more detailed information on how to clean a range of different surfaces and items, as well as for assistance on how to clean if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in your workplace.

What about workers’ personal items?

You should instruct your workers to clean and disinfect personal items used in the workplace such as glasses and phones regularly using disinfectant wipes or sprays.  

What should my workers wear to clean?

In most circumstances, it will not be necessary for workers to wear protective clothing to clean your workplace. However, workers should use personal protective equipment (PPE) that is necessary for the products they are using for cleaning. As a starting point: 

  • Gloves are the minimum requirements 
  • Gowns and disposable suits/aprons are not required. Clothes that can be washed afterwards are suitable. 
  • You need to provide any PPE and train your workers on how to use it safely. 

If you have a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case in the workplace, surgical masks should be used to cleaning any impacted areas.

See also our information on PPE and masks.

What if there is a case of COVID-19 in my workplace?

If you have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, your state or territory health authority should provide you with advice on what you need to do in your workplace. Follow their instructions. 

Your workplace will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before people can return to the workplace.  

  • Using an ISO accredited cleaner is not required. 
  • Fogging is not required and is not recommended by the Australian Government Department of Health for routine cleaning against COVID-19 
  • Swabbing surfaces following disinfection is not required. 

For more information on what to do if there is a case of COVID-19 see our infographic What to do if a worker has COVID-19. 

What are the best products for cleaning and disinfecting?

When cleaning it is best to use detergent and warm water. This will break down grease and grime so that the surface can be wiped clean. Anything labelled as a detergent will work. Disinfectants should only be used once the surface is fully cleaned.

Disinfectants that are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in) include: alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.

If using a store-bought disinfectant, choose one that has antiviral activity, meaning it can kill viruses. This should be written on its label. Alternately, diluted bleach can be used. If using freshly made bleach solution, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for appropriate dilution and use. It will only be effective when diluted to the appropriate concentration. Note that prediluted bleach solutions lose effectiveness over time and on exposure to sunlight.

More information about disinfectant selection and preparing bleach solutions can be found in the Department of Health’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for health and residential care facilities

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a list of disinfectant products that are permitted to claim they are effective against COVID-19.

As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. They do not need to be on the TGA list.

Is a sanitiser a disinfectant?

A sanitiser is a chemical that is designed to kill some bacteria and some viruses that can cause disease in humans or animals. These chemicals are not as strong as disinfectants, which makes them safe to use on skin. If you’re disinfecting a hard surface or inanimate object, a disinfectant is the best option.

If everything is sold out, can I make my own disinfectant?

Store-bought disinfectants meet government standards, so you know they will work. However, if you don’t have store bought disinfectant available, you can prepare a disinfecting solution using bleach and water. Do not use products such as vinegar, baking soda, (bicarbonate of soda), essential oil, mouthwash or saline solution – these will not kill COVID-19.

If preparing a disinfecting solution, make sure you handle chemicals carefully, as they can be dangerous. Always read and follow the instructions and safety directions on the label. If the solution is not prepared and used as described in the instructions, it is unlikely to be effective. More information about the preparation of chlorine (bleach) disinfectant solutions can be found on the Department of Health’s website.

Can I use a product that claims to clean and disinfect at the same time?

Yes, some products can be used for both cleaning and disinfecting, which can save time and effort. If using these products, make sure that you read and follow the instructions on the label to ensure they work effectively.

Does heating or freezing kill the virus?

Extreme heat will destroy COVID-19 but is not recommended as a general disinfection method. Steam and boiling water can easily burn workers and should only be used by trained personnel with specialised equipment.

Viruses are generally resistant to the cold and can survive longer if frozen than if left outside at room temperature.

Will an antibacterial product kill COVID-19?

Antibacterial products are designed to kill bacteria. However, COVID-19 is caused by a virus rather than by bacteria, so an antibacterial product may not be effective against COVID-19.

Detergent and warm water are suitable for cleaning surfaces and should be used prior to using a disinfectant.

For cleaning hands, regular soap and warm water is effective.

Should I be using hospital grade disinfectant for normal cleaning in the workplace?

The Department of Health only recommends the use of hospital grade disinfectant when cleaning in a hospital, beauty or allied health care setting where an infectious person has been present.

What is the difference between household grade disinfectant and hospital grade disinfectant?

Hospital grade disinfectants must meet government standards for use in health care, beauty and allied health settings. A household or commercial grade disinfectant must also meet government standards, but the testing is not as comprehensive as it is for hospital grade disinfectants and the standards to be met are lower.

Household or commercial grade disinfectant are suitable for use in workplaces that are not health care, beauty or allied health settings.

Are there any cleaning methods I shouldn’t use?

The best cleaning method is to use warm water and detergent. You should avoid any cleaning methods that may disperse the virus or create droplets, such as using pressurised water, pressurised air (including canned air cleaners), dry cloth and dusters.

Fumigation or wide-area spraying (known as ‘disinfectant fogging’) is not recommended for general use against COVID-19. Additionally, if not done correctly it can expose workers and others to hazardous chemicals.”

I prefer to use environmentally friendly or natural products, do I have to use detergent to clean?

Yes. Using only water and a cloth, or other forms of cleaning agents, such as vinegar and baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), will not be as effective as using detergent.

What is disinfectant fogging, and do I need to do it?

Disinfectant fogging (sometimes called disinfectant fumigation) is a chemical application method where very fine droplets of disinfectant are sprayed throughout a room in a fog. The disinfectant has to reach a certain concentration for a certain length of time to be effective.

Disinfectant fogging is not recommended for general use against COVID-19 and can introduce new work health and safety risks. Physically cleaning surfaces with detergent and warm water, followed by disinfecting with liquid disinfectant, is the best approach. If you are looking for a faster or easier method, consider a combined (2-in-1) cleaning and disinfecting agent.

Note that if you already use fogging as part of your normal business processes (such as in health care or food manufacturing) you should continue to do so.

The chemicals used in fogging solutions also introduce work health and safety risks which must be managed. Chlorine and hydrogen peroxide-based products are highly irritating to the skin and eyes. Alcohol based products are highly flammable, which may lead to fire or explosion if an ignition source is present.

In all cases, sufficient time must be allowed following fogging for the chemicals to disperse to ensure that workers returning to the area to ensure they are not exposed to hazardous chemicals. If fogging is undertaken, it must only be performed by trained persons and using appropriate controls in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. It should not be undertaken as a response to, or element of a response to contamination of an area with COVID-19. 

How do I clean linen, crockery and cutlery?  

If items can be laundered, launder them in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions using the warmest setting possible. Dry items completely. Do not shake dirty laundry as this may disperse the virus through the air.

Wash crockery and cutlery in a dishwasher on the highest setting possible. If a dishwasher is not available, hand wash in hot soapy water.

More information about how to clean specific items refer to our cleaning guide.

I run a cleaning business, how do I manage the risk of infection to myself and my workers?

You should consult with the business engaging you to clean and with your workers to ensure that that the risks of the job are fully understood and can be managed. For example, you should know if there have been any recent cases of COVID-19 at the workplace and the level of public traffic at the workplace. Once you understand the risks associated with the job, you must put appropriate control measures in place. These may include:

  • physical distancing measures, such as cleaning when other workers are not present (e.g. after hours if cleaning an office) to reduce the chance of contact with others
  • training workers on the use of good hygiene practices and safe cleaning techniques. This should include information on how COVID-19 is transmitted and how the use of good hygiene and safe cleaning practices reduces the risk of COVID-19 spreading, and instructions for staff to avoid touching their face whilst cleaning
  • ensuring that correctly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) is supplied and that your workers know how to use it. More information about PPE is available on our website, and
  • ensuring regular communication with the business that has engaged you so that you are kept up to date on any cases or suspected cases at the workplace.

My job involves going into other persons’ homes. Do I need to clean and disinfect all of my equipment and personal effects after each visit? 

It is generally not necessary to clean and disinfect all equipment before or after each visit.

You should consider cleaning and disinfecting your equipment:

  • before entering the home of a vulnerable or at-risk person, such an elderly person or a person with a pre-existing medical condition
  • before and after sharing equipment with the resident of the home or with other people.

Regardless, you should still practice good hygiene and ensure that your equipment and effects are kept clean. More information about working in other persons homes can be found in the In-house services: Minimising the risk of exposure to COVID-19 fact sheet.

What else can I do?

  • Minimise touching of surfaces; put up signs and support your workers in reminding customers 
  • Reduce the number of touch points for workers 
  • Provide hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser at entry and exit points if possible. 
  • Dispose of used paper towel in a waste bin that is regularly emptied to keep the area clean, tidy and safe. See our hygiene information for further advice on hand washing and paper towel. 
  • Ensure used PPE is disposed of appropriately. Unless contaminated, masks can be disposed of with the general waste, preferably in a closed bin. Contaminated PPE items should be disposed of into a closed bin with two bin liners or be double bagged separately. Refer to our PPE and masks information for detailed advice on correct disposal.

Is there someone I can talk to for more information about Coronavirus?

The Department of Health runs the National Coronavirus Hotline - 1800 020 080.

You can call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

You can find more contact options for the Department of Health on their website.

What about information published by other organisations?

Cleaning

 

The main way COVID-19 spreads from person to person is through contact with respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly onto the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. Airborne transmission of COVID-19 can also occur, with the greatest risk in indoor, crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the COVID-19 virus and then touch their own mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands. Research shows that the COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for prolonged periods of time.

A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by implementing appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures for your workplace.

A combination of cleaning and disinfection will be most effective in removing the COVID-19 virus.

Workplaces must be cleaned at least daily. Cleaning with detergent and water is usually sufficient.  Once clean, surfaces can be disinfected. When and how often your workplace should be disinfected will depend on the likelihood of contaminated material being present. You should prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that many people touch.

Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.
 

How to clean and disinfect

Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a surfactant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water. Anything labelled as a detergent will work.

Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. The following disinfectants are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in): alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a list of disinfectant products that are permitted to claim they are effective against COVID-19.

As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. They do not need to be on the TGA list.

Cleaning should start with the cleanest surface first, progressively moving towards the dirtiest surface. When surfaces are cleaned, they should be left as dry as possible to reduce the risk of slips and falls, as well as spreading of viruses and bacteria through droplets.

Before a surface is disinfected, it is important it is cleaned first because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. Disinfectant may not kill the virus if the surface has not been cleaned with a detergent first. 

The packaging or manufacturer’s instructions will outline the correct way to use disinfectant. Disinfectants require time to be effective at killing viruses. If no time is specified, the disinfectant should be left for ten minutes before removing.

You should provide your workers with suitable cleaning and disinfecting products and personal protective equipment, and ensure they are trained on how to use them. 

After cleaning, any single-use personal protective equipment (PPE), disposable cloths and covers should be placed in a plastic bag and disposed of in general waste. Any reusable cleaning equipment, including mop heads and reusable cloths, should be laundered and completely dry before re-use.

Our cleaning guide provides more information on cleaning and disinfecting, including for specific surfaces.

What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a surfactant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water. 

Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. The following disinfectants are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in): alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.

Which areas should be cleaned and disinfected, and how often?

Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning, such as tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities. . Any surfaces that are visibly dirty, or have a spill, should be cleaned as soon as they are identified, regardless of when they were last cleaned. 

You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. At a minimum, frequently touched surfaces workplaces should be cleaned and disinfected at least once daily. If your workplace has many customers or others entering each day, more frequent cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces is recommended. If your workplace is only attended by the same small work crew each day and involves little interaction with other people, routine disinfection in addition to daily cleaning may not be needed.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a list of disinfectant products that are permitted to claim they are effective against COVID-19.

As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. They do not need to be on the TGA list.

Which areas should I prioritise for cleaning?

Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning and disinfection. These include tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities.. You should also prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces which are visibly soiled (dirty) and which are used by multiple people (e.g. trolleys, checkouts, EFTPOS machines).

How often should I do a routine clean?

Regular cleaning is key to minimising the build-up of dust and dirt and allows for effective disinfecting when required.

Cleaning of frequently touched surfaces must be undertaken at least once per day. Cleaning should be more frequent if surfaces become visibly dirty, there is a spill, or if they are touched by a different people (for example, if your workplace has a high volume of workers, customers or visitors that are likely to touch surfaces such as tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities). If your workplace operates in shifts, it should be cleaned between shifts. If equipment is shared between workers, it may also be cleaned between uses, where practicable.

For more information, refer to our cleaning guide.

Cleaning and disinfecting should also be done after a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID 19 has recently been at the workplace, in line with advice from your state or territory’s health authority. For more information, including the contact details for your local health authority please see What to do if a worker has COVID-19.

How often should I do a routine disinfection?

You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. You should consider disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least once daily. 

All surfaces should be cleaned with detergent prior to disinfection. Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant. 

What’s the difference between frequently touched and infrequently touched surfaces?

A frequently touched surface is a surface that is touched multiple times each day, regardless of whether it is touched by the same person or different people. Door handles and taps are examples of frequently touched surfaces.

An infrequently touched surface is any surface that is not touched more than once each day. If you are unsure, you should treat your surface as if it is frequently touched.

Does every surface need to be cleaned and disinfected?

You don’t need to clean and disinfect every surface. The virus is transmitted by breathing in droplets produced by an infected person coughing or sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces, so you only need to clean surfaces that are touched or otherwise contaminated. This is true whether the touching is deliberate (e.g. a door knob) or incidental (e.g. brushing a door when reaching for the door knob). There are some surfaces that are never touched (e.g. ceilings and cracks and crevices in machinery) and these do not need to be cleaned and disinfected.

Do I need to clean and disinfect areas or equipment daily if no one has entered the area or used the equipment recently?

Not necessarily. If a surface has not had human contact for several days, it is less likely to be a potential source of infection. You may wish to consider how frequently a particular surface is touched or otherwise comes into human contact when deciding how often an area or equipment needs to be cleaned and disinfected. However care should be taken, as research shows that the COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for prolonged periods of time. If there is any doubt, it is better to clean and disinfect an area rather than risk infection.

You can refer to our cleaning guide for more detailed information on how to clean a range of different surfaces and items, as well as for assistance on how to clean if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in your workplace.

What about workers’ personal items?

You should instruct your workers to clean and disinfect personal items used in the workplace such as glasses and phones regularly using disinfectant wipes or sprays.  

What should my workers wear to clean?

In most circumstances, it will not be necessary for workers to wear protective clothing to clean your workplace. However, workers should use personal protective equipment (PPE) that is necessary for the products they are using for cleaning. As a starting point: 

  • Gloves are the minimum requirements 
  • Gowns and disposable suits/aprons are not required. Clothes that can be washed afterwards are suitable. 
  • You need to provide any PPE and train your workers on how to use it safely. 

If you have a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case in the workplace, surgical masks should be used to cleaning any impacted areas.

See also our information on PPE and masks.

What if there is a case of COVID-19 in my workplace?

If you have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, your state or territory health authority should provide you with advice on what you need to do in your workplace. Follow their instructions. 

Your workplace will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before people can return to the workplace.  

  • Using an ISO accredited cleaner is not required. 
  • Fogging is not required and is not recommended by the Australian Government Department of Health for routine cleaning against COVID-19 
  • Swabbing surfaces following disinfection is not required. 

For more information on what to do if there is a case of COVID-19 see our infographic What to do if a worker has COVID-19. 

What are the best products for cleaning and disinfecting?

When cleaning it is best to use detergent and warm water. This will break down grease and grime so that the surface can be wiped clean. Anything labelled as a detergent will work. Disinfectants should only be used once the surface is fully cleaned.

Disinfectants that are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in) include: alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.

If using a store-bought disinfectant, choose one that has antiviral activity, meaning it can kill viruses. This should be written on its label. Alternately, diluted bleach can be used. If using freshly made bleach solution, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for appropriate dilution and use. It will only be effective when diluted to the appropriate concentration. Note that prediluted bleach solutions lose effectiveness over time and on exposure to sunlight.

More information about disinfectant selection and preparing bleach solutions can be found in the Department of Health’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for health and residential care facilities

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a list of disinfectant products that are permitted to claim they are effective against COVID-19.

As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. They do not need to be on the TGA list.

Is a sanitiser a disinfectant?

A sanitiser is a chemical that is designed to kill some bacteria and some viruses that can cause disease in humans or animals. These chemicals are not as strong as disinfectants, which makes them safe to use on skin. If you’re disinfecting a hard surface or inanimate object, a disinfectant is the best option.

If everything is sold out, can I make my own disinfectant?

Store-bought disinfectants meet government standards, so you know they will work. However, if you don’t have store bought disinfectant available, you can prepare a disinfecting solution using bleach and water. Do not use products such as vinegar, baking soda, (bicarbonate of soda), essential oil, mouthwash or saline solution – these will not kill COVID-19.

If preparing a disinfecting solution, make sure you handle chemicals carefully, as they can be dangerous. Always read and follow the instructions and safety directions on the label. If the solution is not prepared and used as described in the instructions, it is unlikely to be effective. More information about the preparation of chlorine (bleach) disinfectant solutions can be found on the Department of Health’s website.

Can I use a product that claims to clean and disinfect at the same time?

Yes, some products can be used for both cleaning and disinfecting, which can save time and effort. If using these products, make sure that you read and follow the instructions on the label to ensure they work effectively.

Does heating or freezing kill the virus?

Extreme heat will destroy COVID-19 but is not recommended as a general disinfection method. Steam and boiling water can easily burn workers and should only be used by trained personnel with specialised equipment.

Viruses are generally resistant to the cold and can survive longer if frozen than if left outside at room temperature.

Will an antibacterial product kill COVID-19?

Antibacterial products are designed to kill bacteria. However, COVID-19 is caused by a virus rather than by bacteria, so an antibacterial product may not be effective against COVID-19.

Detergent and warm water are suitable for cleaning surfaces and should be used prior to using a disinfectant.

For cleaning hands, regular soap and warm water is effective.

Should I be using hospital grade disinfectant for normal cleaning in the workplace?

The Department of Health only recommends the use of hospital grade disinfectant when cleaning in a hospital, beauty or allied health care setting where an infectious person has been present.

What is the difference between household grade disinfectant and hospital grade disinfectant?

Hospital grade disinfectants must meet government standards for use in health care, beauty and allied health settings. A household or commercial grade disinfectant must also meet government standards, but the testing is not as comprehensive as it is for hospital grade disinfectants and the standards to be met are lower.

Household or commercial grade disinfectant are suitable for use in workplaces that are not health care, beauty or allied health settings.

Are there any cleaning methods I shouldn’t use?

The best cleaning method is to use warm water and detergent. You should avoid any cleaning methods that may disperse the virus or create droplets, such as using pressurised water, pressurised air (including canned air cleaners), dry cloth and dusters.

Fumigation or wide-area spraying (known as ‘disinfectant fogging’) is not recommended for general use against COVID-19. Additionally, if not done correctly it can expose workers and others to hazardous chemicals.”

I prefer to use environmentally friendly or natural products, do I have to use detergent to clean?

Yes. Using only water and a cloth, or other forms of cleaning agents, such as vinegar and baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), will not be as effective as using detergent.

What is disinfectant fogging, and do I need to do it?

Disinfectant fogging (sometimes called disinfectant fumigation) is a chemical application method where very fine droplets of disinfectant are sprayed throughout a room in a fog. The disinfectant has to reach a certain concentration for a certain length of time to be effective.

Disinfectant fogging is not recommended for general use against COVID-19 and can introduce new work health and safety risks. Physically cleaning surfaces with detergent and warm water, followed by disinfecting with liquid disinfectant, is the best approach. If you are looking for a faster or easier method, consider a combined (2-in-1) cleaning and disinfecting agent.

Note that if you already use fogging as part of your normal business processes (such as in health care or food manufacturing) you should continue to do so.

The chemicals used in fogging solutions also introduce work health and safety risks which must be managed. Chlorine and hydrogen peroxide-based products are highly irritating to the skin and eyes. Alcohol based products are highly flammable, which may lead to fire or explosion if an ignition source is present.

In all cases, sufficient time must be allowed following fogging for the chemicals to disperse to ensure that workers returning to the area to ensure they are not exposed to hazardous chemicals. If fogging is undertaken, it must only be performed by trained persons and using appropriate controls in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. It should not be undertaken as a response to, or element of a response to contamination of an area with COVID-19. 

How do I clean linen, crockery and cutlery?  

If items can be laundered, launder them in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions using the warmest setting possible. Dry items completely. Do not shake dirty laundry as this may disperse the virus through the air.

Wash crockery and cutlery in a dishwasher on the highest setting possible. If a dishwasher is not available, hand wash in hot soapy water.

More information about how to clean specific items refer to our cleaning guide.

I run a cleaning business, how do I manage the risk of infection to myself and my workers?

You should consult with the business engaging you to clean and with your workers to ensure that that the risks of the job are fully understood and can be managed. For example, you should know if there have been any recent cases of COVID-19 at the workplace and the level of public traffic at the workplace. Once you understand the risks associated with the job, you must put appropriate control measures in place. These may include:

  • physical distancing measures, such as cleaning when other workers are not present (e.g. after hours if cleaning an office) to reduce the chance of contact with others
  • training workers on the use of good hygiene practices and safe cleaning techniques. This should include information on how COVID-19 is transmitted and how the use of good hygiene and safe cleaning practices reduces the risk of COVID-19 spreading, and instructions for staff to avoid touching their face whilst cleaning
  • ensuring that correctly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) is supplied and that your workers know how to use it. More information about PPE is available on our website, and
  • ensuring regular communication with the business that has engaged you so that you are kept up to date on any cases or suspected cases at the workplace.

My job involves going into other persons’ homes. Do I need to clean and disinfect all of my equipment and personal effects after each visit? 

It is generally not necessary to clean and disinfect all equipment before or after each visit.

You should consider cleaning and disinfecting your equipment:

  • before entering the home of a vulnerable or at-risk person, such an elderly person or a person with a pre-existing medical condition
  • before and after sharing equipment with the resident of the home or with other people.

Regardless, you should still practice good hygiene and ensure that your equipment and effects are kept clean. More information about working in other persons homes can be found in the In-house services: Minimising the risk of exposure to COVID-19 fact sheet.

What else can I do?

  • Minimise touching of surfaces; put up signs and support your workers in reminding customers 
  • Reduce the number of touch points for workers 
  • Provide hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser at entry and exit points if possible. 
  • Dispose of used paper towel in a waste bin that is regularly emptied to keep the area clean, tidy and safe. See our hygiene information for further advice on hand washing and paper towel. 
  • Ensure used PPE is disposed of appropriately. Unless contaminated, masks can be disposed of with the general waste, preferably in a closed bin. Contaminated PPE items should be disposed of into a closed bin with two bin liners or be double bagged separately. Refer to our PPE and masks information for detailed advice on correct disposal.

Is there someone I can talk to for more information about Coronavirus?

The Department of Health runs the National Coronavirus Hotline - 1800 020 080.

You can call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

You can find more contact options for the Department of Health on their website.

What about information published by other organisations?

Cleaning

The main way COVID-19 spreads from person to person is through contact with respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly onto the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. Airborne transmission of COVID-19 can also occur, with the greatest risk in indoor, crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the COVID-19 virus and then touch their own mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands. Research shows that the COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for prolonged periods of time.

A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by implementing appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures for your workplace.

A combination of cleaning and disinfection will be most effective in removing the COVID-19 virus.

Workplaces must be cleaned at least daily. Cleaning with detergent and water is usually sufficient.  Once clean, surfaces can be disinfected. When and how often your workplace should be disinfected will depend on the likelihood of contaminated material being present. You should prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that many people touch.

Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.

How to clean and disinfect

Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a surfactant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water. Anything labelled as a detergent will work.

Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. Disinfectants containing greater than equal to 70% alcohol, quaternary ammonium compounds, chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in): alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a list of disinfectant products that are permitted to claim they are effective against COVID-19.

As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. They do not need to be on the TGA list.

Cleaning should start with the cleanest surface first, progressively moving towards the dirtiest surface. When surfaces are cleaned, they should be left as dry as possible to reduce the risk of slips and falls, as well as spreading of viruses and bacteria through droplets.

Before a surface is disinfected, it is important it is cleaned first because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. Disinfectant may not kill the virus if the surface has not been cleaned with a detergent first. 

The packaging or manufacturer’s instructions will outline the correct way to use disinfectant. Disinfectants require time to be effective at killing viruses. If no time is specified, the disinfectant should be left for ten minutes before removing.

Your employer should provide you with suitable cleaning and disinfecting products and personal protective equipment, and ensure you are trained on how to use them.

After cleaning, put any single-use personal protective equipment (PPE), disposable cloths and covers in a plastic bag and dispose of in general waste. Launder any reusable cleaning equipment, including mop heads and reusable cloths, and completely dry before re-use.

Our cleaning guide provides more information on cleaning and disinfecting, including for specific surfaces.

What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a surfactant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water. 

Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. Disinfectants containing ≥ 70% alcohol, quaternary ammonium compounds, chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in). 

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a list of disinfectant products that are permitted to claim they are effective against COVID-19.

As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. They do not need to be on the TGA list.

How do I use cleaning and disinfecting chemicals safely?

Always be aware what chemicals you are handling. Read the product label and safety data sheet (SDS) before use, and make sure you understand the instructions and follow all recommendations. For information on how to read labels and SDS, see the Safe Work Australia SDS webpage.

Make sure you only use chemicals in well ventilated areas, as many release fumes that can irritate your eyes and lungs and cause nausea or headaches. Be especially careful when diluting concentrated cleaners. Use eye protection and gloves, preferably elbow-length. The SDS will tell you more information about how to use the product safely.

Never mix different chemicals together, unless the product label explicitly tells you to do so. Some common cleaning chemicals react when combined to create toxic gas that can be fatal if inhaled.

More information can be found on the Department of Health’s website.

Which areas should be cleaned and disinfected, and how often?

Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning. These include tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities. Any surfaces that are visibly dirty, or have a spill, should be cleaned as soon as they are identified, regardless of when they were last cleaned.

You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. At a minimum, frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at least once daily. If your workplace has many customers or others entering each day, more frequent cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces is recommended. If your workplace is only attended by the same small work crew each day and involves little interaction with other people, routine disinfection in addition to daily cleaning may not be needed.

Which areas should I prioritise for cleaning?

Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning and disinfection. These include tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities. You should also prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces which are visibly soiled (dirty) and which are used by multiple people (e.g. trolleys, checkouts, EFTPOS machines).

How often should I do a routine clean?

Regular cleaning is key to minimising the build-up of dust and dirt and allows for effective disinfecting when required.

Cleaning of frequently touched surfaces must be undertaken at least once per day. Cleaning should be more frequent if surfaces become visibly dirty, there is a spill, or if they are touched by a different people (for example, if your workplace has a high volume of workers, customers or visitors that are likely to touch surfaces such as tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, EFTPOS machines and workplace amenities.). If your workplace operates in shifts, it should be cleaned between shifts. If equipment is shared between workers, it may also be cleaned between uses, where practicable.

For more information, refer to our cleaning guide.

Cleaning and disinfecting should also be done after a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID 19 has recently been at the workplace, in line with advice from your state or territory’s health authority. For more information, including thecontact details for your local health authority please see What to do if a worker has COVID-19.

How often should I do a routine disinfection?

You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. You should consider disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least once daily. 

All surfaces should be cleaned with detergent prior to disinfection. Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant. 

What’s the difference between frequently touched and infrequently touched surfaces?

A frequently touched surface is a surface that is touched multiple times each day, regardless of whether it is touched by the same person or different people. Door handles and taps are examples of frequently touched surfaces.

An infrequently  touched surface is any surface that is not touched more than once each day. If you are unsure, you should treat your surface as if it is frequently touched.

Does every surface need to be cleaned and disinfected?

You don’t need to clean and disinfect every surface. The virus is transmitted by breathing in droplets produced by an infected person coughing or sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces, so you only need to clean surfaces that are touched. This is true whether the touching is deliberate (e.g. a door knob) or incidental (e.g. brushing a door when reaching for the door knob). There are some surfaces that are never touched (e.g. ceilings and cracks and crevices in machinery) and these do not need to be cleaned and disinfected.

Do I need to clean and disinfect areas or equipment daily if no one has entered the area or used the equipment recently?

Not necessarily. If a surface has not had human contact for several days, it is less likely to be a potential source of infection. You may wish to consider how frequently a particular surface is touched or otherwise comes into human contact when deciding how often an area or equipment needs to be cleaned and disinfected. However care should be taken, as research shows that the COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for prolonged periods of time. If there is any doubt, it is better to clean and disinfect an area rather than risk infection.

You can refer to our cleaning guide for more detailed information on how to clean a range of different surfaces and items, as well as for assistance on how to clean if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in your workplace.

What about personal items I bring into work?

Personal items used in the workplace, such as glasses and phones, should be cleaned and disinfected regularly using disinfectant wipes or spray.

Do I need to wear protective equipment when cleaning?

In most circumstances, it will not be necessary to wear protective clothing to clean your workplace. If personal protective equipment (PPE) is required, your employer should provide the PPE and train you on how to use it safely. 

For routine cleaning (when there has not been a known or suspected case of COVID-19), you should wear appropriate gloves and any other protective equipment recommended when using your cleaning product.

More information about selecting and using PPE can be found on the COVID-19 and Personal Protective Equipment Webpage.

Additional PPE may be required if cleaning and disinfecting an area where someone with COVID-19 is present. At a minimum surgical masks should be worn. Your state or territory health should contact your employer and provide them with more advice about what needs to be done.  

What if there is a case of COVID-19 in my workplace?

If you have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, your state or territory health authority should provide your employer with advice on what they need to do in your workplace. Follow their instructions. 

Your workplace will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before people can return to the workplace.  

  • Using an ISO accredited cleaner is not required. 
  • Fogging is not required and is not recommended by the Australian Government Department of Health for routine cleaning against COVID-19 
  • Swabbing surfaces following disinfection is not required. 

For more information on what to do if there is a case of COVID-19 see our infographic What to do if a worker has COVID-19

What are the best products for cleaning and disinfecting?

When cleaning it is best to use detergent and warm water. This will break down grease and grime so that the surface can be wiped clean. Anything labelled as a detergent will work. Disinfectants should only be used once the surface is fully cleaned.

Disinfectants that are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in) include: alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.

If using a store-bought disinfectant, choose one that has antiviral activity, meaning it can kill viruses. This should be written on its label. Alternately, diluted bleach can be used. If using freshly made bleach solution, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for appropriate dilution and use. It will only be effective when diluted to the appropriate concentration. Note that prediluted bleach solutions lose effectiveness over time and on exposure to sunlight.

More information about disinfectant selection and preparing bleach solutions can be found on the Department of Health’s website.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a list of disinfectant products that are permitted to claim they are effective against COVID-19.

As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. They do not need to be on the TGA list.

Is a sanitiser a disinfectant?

A sanitiser is a chemical that is designed to kill some bacteria and some viruses that can cause disease in humans or animals. These chemicals are not as strong as disinfectants, which makes them safe to use on skin. If you’re disinfecting a hard surface or inanimate object, a disinfectant is the best option.

If everything is sold out, can I make my own disinfectant?

Store-bought disinfectants meet government standards, so you know they will work. However, if you don’t have store bought disinfectant available, you can prepare a disinfecting solution using bleach and water. Do not use products such as vinegar, baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), essential oil, mouthwash or saline solution – these will not kill COVID-19.

If preparing a disinfecting solution, make sure you handle chemicals carefully, as they can be dangerous. Always read and follow the instructions and safety directions on the label. If the solution is not prepared and used as described in the instructions, it is unlikely to be effective. More information about the preparation of chlorine (bleach) disinfectant solutions can be found on the Department of Health’s website.

Can I use a product that claims to clean and disinfect at the same time?

Yes, some products can be used for both cleaning and disinfecting, which can save time and effort. If using these products, make sure that you read and follow the instructions on the label to ensure they work effectively.

Does heating or freezing kill the virus?

Extreme heat will destroy COVID-19 but is not recommended as a general disinfection method. Steam and boiling water can easily burn workers and should only be used by trained personnel with specialised equipment.

Viruses are generally resistant to the cold and can survive longer if frozen than if left outside at room temperature.

Will an antibacterial product kill COVID-19?

Antibacterial products are designed to kill bacteria. However, COVID-19 is caused by a virus rather than by bacteria, so an antibacterial product may not be effective against COVID-19.

Detergent and warm water are suitable for cleaning surfaces and should be used prior to using a disinfectant.

For cleaning hands, regular soap and warm water is effective.

Can I use the same disinfecting wipe on multiple surfaces?

Disinfecting wipes are designed to be used on a single surface and then thrown out. If you use a disinfecting wipe on multiple surfaces it will lose its effectiveness and may even transfer the virus from one surface to another.

Ensure you read and follow the directions that come with the disinfecting wipes.

Should I be using hospital grade disinfectant for normal cleaning in the workplace?

The Department of Health only recommends the use of hospital grade disinfectant when cleaning in a hospital, beauty or allied health care setting where an infectious person has been present.

What is the difference between household grade disinfectant and hospital grade disinfectant?

Hospital grade disinfectants must meet government standards for use in health care, beauty and allied health settings. A household or commercial grade disinfectant must also meet government standards, but the testing is not as comprehensive as it is for hospital grade disinfectants and the standards to be met are lower.

Household or commercial grade disinfectant are suitable for use in workplaces that are not health care, beauty and allied health settings.

Are there any cleaning methods I shouldn’t use?

The best cleaning method is to use warm water and detergent. You should avoid any cleaning methods that may disperse the virus or create droplets, such as using pressurised water, pressurised air (including canned air cleaners), dry cloth and dusters.

Fumigation or wide-area spraying (known as ‘disinfectant fogging’) is not recommended as it does not clean surfaces and there is insufficient evidence that it is effective at killing COVID-19. Additionally, if not done correctly it can expose workers and others to hazardous chemicals.

My employer is making me do cleaning. This has never been my job until now, can they do that?

Yes. You must comply with any reasonable instruction from your employer to allow your employer to meet their health and safety duties, as long as you are reasonably able to do so. This includes an instruction from your employer to clean your work space, or to clean plant or equipment after you have used it, to manage the risk of spread of COVID-19.

The risk of catching COVID-19 when cleaning is substantially lower than any risk from close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

I prefer to use environmentally friendly or natural products, do I have to use detergent to clean?

Yes. Using only water and a cloth, or other forms of cleaning agents, such as vinegar and baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), will not be as effective as using detergent.

What is disinfectant fogging, and do I need to do it?

Disinfectant fogging (sometimes called disinfectant fumigation) is a chemical application method where very fine droplets of disinfectant are sprayed throughout a room in a fog. The disinfectant has to reach a certain concentration for a certain length of time to be effective.

Disinfectant fogging is not recommended for general use against COVID-19 and can introduce new work health and safety risks. Physically cleaning surfaces with detergent and warm water, followed by disinfecting with liquid disinfectant, is the best approach. If you are looking for a faster or easier method, consider a combined (2-in-1) cleaning and disinfecting agent.

Note that if you already use fogging as part of your normal business processes (such as in health care or food manufacturing) you should continue to do so.

The chemicals used in fogging solutions also introduce work health and safety risks which must be managed. Chlorine and hydrogen peroxide-based products are highly irritating to the skin and eyes. Alcohol based products are highly flammable, which may lead to fire or explosion if an ignition source is present.

In all cases, sufficient time must be allowed following fogging for the chemicals to disperse to ensure that workers returning to the area to ensure they are not exposed to hazardous chemicals. If fogging is undertaken, it must only be performed by trained persons and using appropriate controls in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. It should not be undertaken as a response to, or element of a response to contamination of an area with COVID-19. 

How do I clean linen, crockery and cutlery?  

If items can be laundered, launder them in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions using the warmest setting possible. Dry items completely. Do not shake dirty laundry as this may disperse the virus through the air.

Wash crockery and cutlery in a dishwasher on the highest setting possible. If a dishwasher is not available, hand wash in hot soapy water.

More information about how to clean specific items refer to our cleaning guide.

What else can I do?

You can work with your employer to minimise the touching of surfaces at your workplace and practice good hygiene (for example, washing your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds). You should also ensure you properly dispose of used PPE and paper towel used in handwashing, following the instructions provided by your employer. 

Is there someone I can talk to for more information about Coronavirus?

The Department of Health runs the National Coronavirus Hotline - 1800 020 080.

You can call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

You can find more contact options for the Department of Health on their website.

What about information published by other organisations?

Consultation

You must consult with your workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19. This means you must consult when: 

  • assessing the risk COVID-19 presents to the health and safety of workers 
  • deciding on control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 
  • deciding on the adequacy of facilities for the welfare of workers (e.g. hand washing facilities), and 
  • proposing other changes to the workplace as a result of COVID-19 which may affect health and safety. 

If you and your workers have agreed to procedures for consultation, the consultation must be in accordance with those procedures. If workers are represented by Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) you must include them in the consultation process. 

You must allow workers to raise and express their views on work health and safety issues that may arise directly or indirectly because of COVID-19. You must genuinely take the views of workers into account when making decisions and advise them of your decision.  

Do I still have to consult with workers if I am following advice from health authorities?

Yes. You must consult with workers about all the things you are doing to identify and manage the risks to keep workers safe during the pandemic. Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work, including new risks introduced as a result of COVID-19 control measures. Involving them will help build commitment to this process and any changes you make at the workplace. 

Consultation does not require consensus or agreement but you must allow your workers to be part of the decision making process. You must genuinely take into account their views.  

Some or all of my workers are working from home, does consultation have to be face to face?

No. When you or your workers are working from home you may not be able to consult with them face to face. You must find other ways of consulting with them such as emails, video conferences or calling workers individually to discuss their concerns. 

Make sure you update your consultation policies and procedures to reflect the new arrangements you need to put in place. 

What else do I need to consider?

You must consult with your workers in accordance with any agreed procedures, including involving any HSRs. However, if working arrangements have changed (e.g. workers working from home, doing shifts or changing work groups) you may need to review and update these procedures to suit the current pandemic conditions. This may mean electing new HSRs for different work groups or changing procedures to allow for consultation through electronic communications. 

What do my workers need to know?

You must provide workers with clear direction and guidance about what is expected including:  

  • when to stay away from the workplace  
  • what action to take if they become unwell 
  • what symptoms to be concerned about, and 
  • that workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others. 

What other information should I share with my workers?

You must share relevant information with workers about health and safety issues, such as any COVID-19 WHS policies you’ve put in place or updated to taken account of the pandemic conditions (e.g. how to report any incidents) and any changes to emergency plans.  

You must provide this as early as possible and ensure that it can be easily understood by your workers. 

You should also remind workers about contacts to discuss their concerns such as HSRs, and access to support services, including employee assistance programs. 

Is there anyone else I should be talking to?

Yes. You must also consult, cooperate and coordinate with other businesses you work with, or share premises with, about how they will discharge their WHS duties when they interact with your workers. To do this you should:  

  • exchange information to find out who is doing what. For example: 
    • talk to your suppliers about how to safely manage deliveries 
    • talk to other businesses that share your worksite or premises about how to manage shared areas such as lifts, bathroom and kitchen facilities 
    • talk to other businesses that share your worksite or premises about what you will do if there is a case, or suspected case, of COVID-19 at the worksite or premises, and 
    • talk to other businesses you interact with, for example, the onsite food van or the contract cleaner.  
  • work together in a cooperative and coordinated way so risks are eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable (e.g. how to manage shared areas such as lifts, bathroom facilities) 

The model Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination provides more information about your duties to consult. 

Consultation

You must consult with your workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19. This means you must consult when: 

  • assessing the risk COVID-19 presents to the health and safety of workers 
  • deciding on control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 
  • deciding on the adequacy of facilities for the welfare of workers (e.g. hand washing facilities), and 
  • proposing other changes to the workplace as a result of COVID-19 which may affect health and safety. 

If you and your workers have agreed to procedures for consultation, the consultation must be in accordance with those procedures. If workers are represented by Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) you must include them in the consultation process. 

You must allow workers to raise and express their views on work health and safety issues that may arise directly or indirectly because of COVID-19. You must genuinely take the views of workers into account when making decisions and advise them of your decision.  

Do I still have to consult with workers if I am following advice from health authorities?

Yes. You must consult with workers about all the things you are doing to identify and manage the risks to keep workers safe during the pandemic. Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work, including new risks introduced as a result of COVID-19 control measures. Involving them will help build commitment to this process and any changes you make at the workplace. 

Consultation does not require consensus or agreement but you must allow your workers to be part of the decision making process. You must genuinely take into account their views.  

Some or all of my workers are working from home, does consultation have to be face to face?

No. When you or your workers are working from home you may not be able to consult with them face to face. You must find other ways of consulting with them such as emails, video conferences or calling workers individually to discuss their concerns. 

Make sure you update your consultation policies and procedures to reflect the new arrangements you need to put in place. 

What else do I need to consider?

You must consult with your workers in accordance with any agreed procedures, including involving any HSRs. However, if working arrangements have changed (e.g. workers working from home, doing shifts or changing work groups) you may need to review and update these procedures to suit the current pandemic conditions. This may mean electing new HSRs for different work groups or changing procedures to allow for consultation through electronic communications. 

What do my workers need to know?

You must provide workers with clear direction and guidance about what is expected including:  

  • when to stay away from the workplace  
  • what action to take if they become unwell 
  • what symptoms to be concerned about, and 
  • that workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others. 

What other information should I share with my workers?

You must share relevant information with workers about health and safety issues, such as any COVID-19 WHS policies you’ve put in place or updated to taken account of the pandemic conditions (e.g. how to report any incidents) and any changes to emergency plans.  

You must provide this as early as possible and ensure that it can be easily understood by your workers. 

You should also remind workers about contacts to discuss their concerns such as HSRs, and access to support services, including employee assistance programs. 

Is there anyone else I should be talking to?

Yes. You must also consult, cooperate and coordinate with other businesses you work with, or share premises with, about how they will discharge their WHS duties when they interact with your workers. To do this you should:  

  • exchange information to find out who is doing what. For example: 
    • talk to your suppliers about how to safely manage deliveries 
    • talk to other businesses that share your worksite or premises about how to manage shared areas such as lifts, bathroom and kitchen facilities 
    • talk to other businesses that share your worksite or premises about what you will do if there is a case, or suspected case, of COVID-19 at the worksite or premises, and 
    • talk to other businesses you interact with, for example, the onsite food van or the contract cleaner.  
  • work together in a cooperative and coordinated way so risks are eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable (e.g. how to manage shared areas such as lifts, bathroom facilities) 

The model Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination provides more information about your duties to consult. 

 

Consultation

Does my employer have to consult with me? What about?

Your employer must talk to you about things that affect you. They must tell you what they are proposing to do to identify and manage risks to worker health, safety and wellbeing at your workplace. They must give you an opportunity to share your ideas and express any concerns. You are most likely to know about the risks of your work. Your employer must allow you to raise any work health and safety issues or concerns.  

Your employer must consult with you or your representative on health and safety matters when: 

  • assessing the risk of COVID-19 to your health and safety 
  • deciding on control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 
  • deciding on facilities for your welfare (e.g. whether hand washing facilities are adequate), and 
  • proposing changes to the workplace which may affect your health and safety (e.g. if you are now working from home this may affect your health and safety in other ways). 

Your employer does not have to agree with you or take your suggestions on board, but they must give genuine consideration to everything you raise with them, and let you know what their final decisions are. 

Is there any other information my employer should be sharing with me during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Yes. Your employer must also clearly explain to you: 

  1. when you must stay away from the workplace  

  1. what to do if you become unwell, and 

  1. what symptoms to be concerned about. 

Your employer should also remind you about who to talk to if you are concerned, such as your HSR, and where you can go for support services, such as employee assistance programs.  

I spoke up about my concerns and my employer did nothing 

Your employer doesn’t always have to agree with you or implement a control measure you have suggested, but they must genuinely take your views into account when making decisions about worker health and safety. They must also tell you what they decided. 

If you and your employer have agreed to procedures for consultation, they must follow them. If you are represented by an HSR they must be involved in any consultation.  

If after raising a safety concern with your manager or supervisor, you are still concerned about a risk to your health and safety you should speak to your HSR or contact the relevant WHS regulator for assistance.  

Your employer mustn’t ignore you or discriminate against you for raising a safety concern. You may also have the right to stop or refuse to carry out unsafe work. See the section Workers’ rights for more information. 

The model Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination can provide more information about your employer’s duties to consult. 

I’m working from home, will I miss out on being consulted? 

No. This shouldn’t happen. When you or your employer are working from home they will no longer be able to consult with you face to face but they must find other ways of consulting with you such as via email, video conference or phone. 

I’ve heard my HSR might change, can that happen? 

Yes. If working arrangements have changed (e.g. you now work shifts, have changed work groups or are working from home) your employer may need to review their procedures for consultation to reflect this. This may mean electing new HSRs for different work groups or changing procedures to allow for consultation by electronic communications. 

COVID-19 in your workplace

What to do if a worker has COVID-19

Download as PDF or JPEG Version>

COVID-19 Incident notification fact sheet

Download as PDF or MS Word Version>

Anyone who is unwell should not be at a workplace. If anyone develops symptoms at work such as fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, you should ask them to seek medical advice. 

It is important to remember that if a person becomes sick with these symptoms at work they may be suffering from a cold, the flu or other respiratory illness and not COVID-19. 

If, after seeking medical advice your worker is confirmed as having COVID-19 your state and territory public health unit will trace and contact the people the infected worker was in close contact with and provide them with instructions to quarantine.  

What action should I take if I suspect someone at my workplace has the virus or has been exposed? 

You are not expected, and should not try, to diagnose workers. However, you have a work health and safety duty to minimise the risk of workers and others in the workplace being exposed to COVID-19 so far as reasonably practicable. 

If you reasonably suspect someone has the virus, or has been exposed, this creates a health risk at your workplace, and you will need to follow the steps below. Do not wait until confirmation that a worker has COVID-19. You must act promptly to take reasonable steps to manage the risks.  

This information is provided to assist you in the workplace. However, you must always follow the advice of your state and territory public health unit and WHS regulator, even if it is different to this guidance.  

Steps to take when the person you are concerned about is at the workplace now 

If someone is confirmed as having COVID-19 or is getting tested for COVID-19, they should already be at home. However, there may be circumstances where a person in your workplace is displaying COVID-like symptoms or shares information (e.g. they have been in close contact with someone that has the virus) that causes you to have reasonable concerns about their health and the health of others in your workplace.  

The person could be a worker, a client, customer or other visitor to your premises. Where this occurs: 

1. Isolate the person 

If the person has serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 000 for urgent medical help. Otherwise, you must take steps to prevent the person from potentially spreading the virus by isolating them from others. You must also provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to the affected person, such as disposable surgical mask, and hand sanitiser and tissues, if available. Also provide protection to anyone assisting the person. 

2. Seek advice and assess the risks 

Next, to determine if it is reasonable to suspect the person may have COVID-19, talk to the person about your concerns and see what they say.  

Seek government health advice by calling your state or territory helpline. Follow the advice of your state and territory public health unit. You can also contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The National Helpline can provide advice on when and how to seek medical help or about how to get tested for COVID-19. 

Ensure that you have current contact details for the person and make a note about the areas they have been in the workplace, who they have been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about risks to others and areas to clean and disinfect. This information may also assist your state and territory public health unit if they need to follow up with you at a later time.  

Your state or territory WHS regulator may also be able to provide specific WHS advice on your situation.  

3. Transport 

Ensure the person has transport home, to a location they can isolate, or to a medical facility if necessary.  

Wherever possible, if a person is unwell or travelling to a location for mandatory  
isolation, they should use a personal mode of transport to minimise exposure to others. They should not use public transport unless there is no other option.  

If the person needs to use a taxi or ride share service (or public transport) then the person should avoid contact with others including the driver to the extent possible. This includes: 

  • wearing a surgical mask, if available 
  • avoiding direct contact with the driver, including sitting in the back seat to achieve as much separation as is reasonably possible  
  • practising good hand hygiene and cough/sneeze hygiene, and 
  • paying by card. 

4. Clean and disinfect 

Close off the affected areas and do not let others use or enter them until they have been cleaned and disinfected. Open outside doors and windows if possible to increase air flow. 

All areas, for example offices, bathrooms, kitchens and common areas and equipment or PPE that were used by the person concerned must then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. 

Further information on how to clean and disinfect can be found in our Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19 guide and also the Cleaning information for your industry. 

Cleaners must wear appropriate PPE, for example disposable gloves or gloves appropriate to the cleaning chemicals being used, and safety eyewear to protect against chemical splashes. If there is visible contamination with respiratory secretions or other body fluids in the area, the cleaners should also wear a disposable apron. 

Your state and territory public health unit may also provide you with further information about how and where to clean. You must follow those instructions. 

5. Identify and tell close contacts 

The state or territory public health unit will identify close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case and provide them with instructions, for example, in relation to quarantine requirements.  

In the meantime, for the purposes of undertaking a workplace risk assessment and to assist your state and territory public health unit, consider who the affected person may have had recent close contact with. If instructed by health officials, tell close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and the requirements for quarantine. You must maintain the privacy of all individuals involved.  

Seek information about the areas that close contacts have been in the workplace, who they have been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about possible risks to others, and additional areas that may also need to be cleaned and disinfected. 

6. Review risk management controls  

Review your COVID-19 risk management controls, in consultation with your workers and their representatives, and assess and decide whether any changes or additional control measures are required.  

You must continue to meet your WHS duties at all times. This may mean taking steps above and beyond public health requirements to eliminate or minimise, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of workers and others in the workplace (such as customers) contracting COVID-19.  

See also our information for managing COVID-19 risks in your industry. This information provides practical guidance on managing risks in your workplace. 

Steps to take when the person you are concerned about has recently been at your workplace 

A person who has recently been at your workplace such as a worker, client or customer may inform you they have, or may potentially have, COVID-19. Depending on the circumstances (e.g. how recently the person was at your workplace and how closely they were in contact with others) you may have reasonable concerns about the health of others in your workplace.  

You must continue to meet your WHS duties at all times. This may mean taking steps above and beyond public health requirements to eliminate or minimise, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of workers and others in your workplace (such as customers) contracting COVID-19.  

1. Seek advice and assess the risks 

To determine if it is reasonable to suspect the person may have COVID-19, talk to the person about your concerns and see what they say. You do not have to do this if the person has already informed you that they have or may potentially have COVID-19 

Seek government health advice by calling your state or territory helpline. Follow the advice of your state and territory public health unit. You can also contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The National Helpline can provide advice on when and how to seek medical help or about how to get tested for COVID-19. 

Ensure that you have current contact details for the person and make a note about the areas they had been in the workplace, who they had been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about risks to others and areas to clean and disinfect. This information may also assist your state and territory public health unit if they need to follow up with you at a later time.  

Your state or territory WHS regulator may also be able to provide specific WHS advice on your situation.  

2. Identify and tell close contacts 

The state or territory public health unit will identify close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case and provide them with instructions, for example, in relation to quarantine requirements.  

In the meantime, for the purposes of undertaking a workplace risk assessment and to assist your state and territory public health unit, consider who the affected person may have had recent close contact with. If instructed by health officials, tell close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and the requirements for quarantine. You must maintain the privacy of all individuals involved.  

Seek information about the areas that close contacts have been in the workplace, who they have been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about possible risks to others, and additional areas that may also need to be cleaned and disinfected. 

3. Clean and disinfect 

Close off the affected areas and do not let others use or enter them until they have been cleaned and disinfected. Open outside doors and windows if possible to increase air flow. 

All areas, for example offices, bathrooms, kitchens and common areas as well as equipment or PPE that were used by the person concerned must then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. 

Further information on how to clean and disinfect can be found in our Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19 guide and also the Cleaning information for your industry. 

Cleaners must wear appropriate PPE, for example disposable gloves or gloves appropriate to the cleaning chemicals being used, and safety eyewear to protect against chemical splashes. If there is visible contamination with respiratory secretions or other body fluids in the area, the cleaners should also wear a disposable apron. 

Your state and territory public health unit may also provide you with further information about how and where to clean. You must follow those instructions. 

4. Review risk management controls 

Review your COVID-19 risk management controls, in consultation with your workers and their representatives, and assess and decide whether any changes or additional control measures are required.  

You must continue to meet your WHS duties at all times. This may mean taking steps above and beyond public health requirements to eliminate or minimise, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of workers and others in the workplace (such as customers) contracting COVID-19.  

See also our information for managing COVID-19 risks in your industry. This information is provides practical guidance on managing risks in your workplace. 

Do I need to close my workplace for cleaning? 

There is no automatic requirement to close an entire workplace following a suspect or confirmed case of COVID-19. It may be unnecessary if the person has only visited parts of your workplace or if government health officials advise you the risk of others being exposed are low.  

Whether you need to suspend operations in your workplace will depend on factors such as the size of the workplace, nature of work, number of people and suspected areas of contamination in your workplace.  

See also our information about Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

When can workers return to work following recovery from COVID-19? 

Workers who have been isolated after having tested positive for COVID-19 can return to work when they have fully recovered and have met the criteria for clearance from isolation.  

The criteria may vary depending on circumstances of the workplace and states and territories may manage clearance from isolation differently. Clearance may be by the public health authority or the persons treating clinician.  

There are specific criteria for clearance which apply to health care workers and aged care workers. As these may change, these workers should check with a medical practitioner or the public health authority as to whether the criteria for clearance from isolation has been met before they return to work.  

Contact your state or territory helpline for further advice.   

When can workers return to work following quarantine? 

Workers who have completed a 14-day quarantine period (either after returning from travel or because they were a close contact with a confirmed case), and who did not develop symptoms during quarantine, do not need a medical clearance to return to work.  

You should not ask these workers to be tested for COVID-19 in order to return to work.  

Is my worker’s case of COVID-19 a notifiable incident? 

If someone at your workplace is confirmed to have COVID-19, you may also need to notify your state or territory WHS regulator – see our Incident Notification fact sheet for further information. 

What are the state and territory helplines?

  • New South Wales - 1300 066 055 
  • Queensland - 13 432 584 
  • Victoria - 1800 675 398 
  • South Australia – 1800 253 787 
  • Tasmania - 1800 671 738 
  • Western Australia – 13 26843 
  • Australian Capital Territory - (02) 6207 7244 
  • Northern Territory - (08) 8922 8044 

COVID-19 in your workplace

What to do if a worker has COVID-19

Download as PDF or JPEG Version>

COVID-19 Incident notification fact sheet

Download as PDF or MS Word Version>

Anyone who is unwell should not be at a workplace. If anyone develops symptoms at work such as fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, you should ask them to seek medical advice. 

It is important to remember that if a person becomes sick with these symptoms at work they may be suffering from a cold, the flu or other respiratory illness and not COVID-19. 

If, after seeking medical advice your worker is confirmed as having COVID-19 your state and territory public health unit will trace and contact the people the infected worker was in close contact with and provide them with instructions to quarantine.  

What action should I take if I suspect someone at my workplace has the virus or has been exposed? 

You are not expected, and should not try, to diagnose workers. However, you have a work health and safety duty to minimise the risk of workers and others in the workplace being exposed to COVID-19 so far as reasonably practicable. 

If you reasonably suspect someone has the virus, or has been exposed, this creates a health risk at your workplace, and you will need to follow the steps below. Do not wait until confirmation that a worker has COVID-19. You must act promptly to take reasonable steps to manage the risks.  

This information is provided to assist you in the workplace. However, you must always follow the advice of your state and territory public health unit and WHS regulator, even if it is different to this guidance.  

Steps to take when the person you are concerned about is at the workplace now 

If someone is confirmed as having COVID-19 or is getting tested for COVID-19, they should already be at home. However, there may be circumstances where a person in your workplace is displaying COVID-like symptoms or shares information (e.g. they have been in close contact with someone that has the virus) that causes you to have reasonable concerns about their health and the health of others in your workplace.  

The person could be a worker, a client, customer or other visitor to your premises. Where this occurs: 

1. Isolate the person 

If the person has serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 000 for urgent medical help. Otherwise, you must take steps to prevent the person from potentially spreading the virus by isolating them from others. You must also provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to the affected person, such as disposable surgical mask, and hand sanitiser and tissues, if available. Also provide protection to anyone assisting the person. 

2. Seek advice and assess the risks 

Next, to determine if it is reasonable to suspect the person may have COVID-19, talk to the person about your concerns and see what they say.  

Seek government health advice by calling your state or territory helpline. Follow the advice of your state and territory public health unit. You can also contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The National Helpline can provide advice on when and how to seek medical help or about how to get tested for COVID-19. 

Ensure that you have current contact details for the person and make a note about the areas they have been in the workplace, who they have been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about risks to others and areas to clean and disinfect. This information may also assist your state and territory public health unit if they need to follow up with you at a later time.  

Your state or territory WHS regulator may also be able to provide specific WHS advice on your situation.  

3. Transport 

Ensure the person has transport home, to a location they can isolate, or to a medical facility if necessary.  

Wherever possible, if a person is unwell or travelling to a location for mandatory  
isolation, they should use a personal mode of transport to minimise exposure to others. They should not use public transport unless there is no other option.  

If the person needs to use a taxi or ride share service (or public transport) then the person should avoid contact with others including the driver to the extent possible. This includes: 

  • wearing a surgical mask, if available 
  • avoiding direct contact with the driver, including sitting in the back seat to achieve as much separation as is reasonably possible  
  • practising good hand hygiene and cough/sneeze hygiene, and 
  • paying by card. 

4. Clean and disinfect 

Close off the affected areas and do not let others use or enter them until they have been cleaned and disinfected. Open outside doors and windows if possible to increase air flow. 

All areas, for example offices, bathrooms, kitchens and common areas and equipment or PPE that were used by the person concerned must then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. 

Further information on how to clean and disinfect can be found in our Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19 guide and also the Cleaning information for your industry. 

Cleaners must wear appropriate PPE, for example disposable gloves or gloves appropriate to the cleaning chemicals being used, and safety eyewear to protect against chemical splashes. If there is visible contamination with respiratory secretions or other body fluids in the area, the cleaners should also wear a disposable apron. 

Your state and territory public health unit may also provide you with further information about how and where to clean. You must follow those instructions. 

5. Identify and tell close contacts 

The state or territory public health unit will identify close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case and provide them with instructions, for example, in relation to quarantine requirements.  

In the meantime, for the purposes of undertaking a workplace risk assessment and to assist your state and territory public health unit, consider who the affected person may have had recent close contact with. If instructed by health officials, tell close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and the requirements for quarantine. You must maintain the privacy of all individuals involved.  

Seek information about the areas that close contacts have been in the workplace, who they have been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about possible risks to others, and additional areas that may also need to be cleaned and disinfected. 

6. Review risk management controls  

Review your COVID-19 risk management controls, in consultation with your workers and their representatives, and assess and decide whether any changes or additional control measures are required.  

You must continue to meet your WHS duties at all times. This may mean taking steps above and beyond public health requirements to eliminate or minimise, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of workers and others in the workplace (such as customers) contracting COVID-19.  

See also our information for managing COVID-19 risks in your industry. This information provides practical guidance on managing risks in your workplace. 

Steps to take when the person you are concerned about has recently been at your workplace 

A person who has recently been at your workplace such as a worker, client or customer may inform you they have, or may potentially have, COVID-19. Depending on the circumstances (e.g. how recently the person was at your workplace and how closely they were in contact with others) you may have reasonable concerns about the health of others in your workplace.  

You must continue to meet your WHS duties at all times. This may mean taking steps above and beyond public health requirements to eliminate or minimise, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of workers and others in your workplace (such as customers) contracting COVID-19.  

1. Seek advice and assess the risks 

To determine if it is reasonable to suspect the person may have COVID-19, talk to the person about your concerns and see what they say. You do not have to do this if the person has already informed you that they have or may potentially have COVID-19 

Seek government health advice by calling your state or territory helpline. Follow the advice of your state and territory public health unit. You can also contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The National Helpline can provide advice on when and how to seek medical help or about how to get tested for COVID-19. 

Ensure that you have current contact details for the person and make a note about the areas they had been in the workplace, who they had been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about risks to others and areas to clean and disinfect. This information may also assist your state and territory public health unit if they need to follow up with you at a later time.  

Your state or territory WHS regulator may also be able to provide specific WHS advice on your situation.  

2. Identify and tell close contacts 

The state or territory public health unit will identify close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case and provide them with instructions, for example, in relation to quarantine requirements.  

In the meantime, for the purposes of undertaking a workplace risk assessment and to assist your state and territory public health unit, consider who the affected person may have had recent close contact with. If instructed by health officials, tell close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and the requirements for quarantine. You must maintain the privacy of all individuals involved.  

Seek information about the areas that close contacts have been in the workplace, who they have been in close contact with in the workplace and for how long. This will inform you about possible risks to others, and additional areas that may also need to be cleaned and disinfected. 

3. Clean and disinfect 

Close off the affected areas and do not let others use or enter them until they have been cleaned and disinfected. Open outside doors and windows if possible to increase air flow. 

All areas, for example offices, bathrooms, kitchens and common areas as well as equipment or PPE that were used by the person concerned must then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. 

Further information on how to clean and disinfect can be found in our Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19 guide and also the Cleaning information for your industry. 

Cleaners must wear appropriate PPE, for example disposable gloves or gloves appropriate to the cleaning chemicals being used, and safety eyewear to protect against chemical splashes. If there is visible contamination with respiratory secretions or other body fluids in the area, the cleaners should also wear a disposable apron. 

Your state and territory public health unit may also provide you with further information about how and where to clean. You must follow those instructions. 

4. Review risk management controls 

Review your COVID-19 risk management controls, in consultation with your workers and their representatives, and assess and decide whether any changes or additional control measures are required.  

You must continue to meet your WHS duties at all times. This may mean taking steps above and beyond public health requirements to eliminate or minimise, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of workers and others in the workplace (such as customers) contracting COVID-19.  

See also our information for managing COVID-19 risks in your industry. This information is provides practical guidance on managing risks in your workplace. 

Do I need to close my workplace for cleaning? 

There is no automatic requirement to close an entire workplace following a suspect or confirmed case of COVID-19. It may be unnecessary if the person has only visited parts of your workplace or if government health officials advise you the risk of others being exposed are low.  

Whether you need to suspend operations in your workplace will depend on factors such as the size of the workplace, nature of work, number of people and suspected areas of contamination in your workplace.  

See also our information about Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

When can workers return to work following recovery from COVID-19? 

Workers who have been isolated after having tested positive for COVID-19 can return to work when they have fully recovered and have met the criteria for clearance from isolation.  

The criteria may vary depending on circumstances of the workplace and states and territories may manage clearance from isolation differently. Clearance may be by the public health authority or the persons treating clinician.  

There are specific criteria for clearance which apply to health care workers and aged care workers. As these may change, these workers should check with a medical practitioner or the public health authority as to whether the criteria for clearance from isolation has been met before they return to work.  

Contact your state or territory helpline for further advice.   

When can workers return to work following quarantine? 

Workers who have completed a 14-day quarantine period (either after returning from travel or because they were a close contact with a confirmed case), and who did not develop symptoms during quarantine, do not need a medical clearance to return to work.  

You should not ask these workers to be tested for COVID-19 in order to return to work.  

Is my worker’s case of COVID-19 a notifiable incident? 

If someone at your workplace is confirmed to have COVID-19, you may also need to notify your state or territory WHS regulator – see our Incident Notification fact sheet for further information. 

What are the state and territory helplines?

  • New South Wales - 1300 066 055 
  • Queensland - 13 432 584 
  • Victoria - 1800 675 398 
  • South Australia – 1800 253 787 
  • Tasmania - 1800 671 738 
  • Western Australia – 13 26843 
  • Australian Capital Territory - (02) 6207 7244 
  • Northern Territory - (08) 8922 8044 

 

Duties under WHS laws

The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws require you to take care of the health, safety and welfare of your workers, including yourself and other staff, contractors and volunteers, and others (clients, customers, visitors) at your workplace.

This includes:

  • providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety
  • providing adequate and accessible facilities for the welfare of workers to carry out their work, and
  • monitoring the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace for the purpose of preventing illness or injury.

The model WHS laws have been implemented in all jurisdictions except Victoria and Western Australia. 

For information on WHS duties in Victoria, refer to WorkSafe Victoria –  Occupational health and safety – your legal duties.

For information on WHS duties in Western Australia, refer to WorkSafe WA –  Employers – your responsibilities and Employees – your rights and responsibilities.

Duty to workers

You must do what you can to ensure the health and safety of your workers. You must eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 if reasonably practicable.   

If you are not able to eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19, you must minimise that risk, as far as is reasonably practicable.  

Protect workers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by, for example: 

  • considering working from home arrangements 
  • requiring workers to practice physical distancing  
  • requiring workers to practice good hygiene (e.g., through workplace policies and ensuring access to adequate and well stocked hygiene facilities)
  • requiring workers to stay home when sick, and 
  • cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly. 

Duty to other people in the workplace

You must ensure the work of your business or undertaking does not put the health and safety of other persons (such as customers, clients and visitors) at risk of contracting COVID-19.  

Protect others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by, for example: 

  • requiring them to practice physical distancing, including through contactless deliveries and payments  
  • requiring them to practice good hygiene, and 
  • requiring others to stay away from the workplace, unless essential, e.g., such as family, friends and visitors.  

Duty to maintain the workplace and facilities

You must maintain your workplace to ensure the work environment does not put workers and others at risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Maintain a safe work environment by, for example: 

  • cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly 
  • restructuring the layout of the workplace to allow for physical distancing, and 
  • limiting the number of people in the workplace at any given time. 

You must also provide adequate facilities in your workplace to protect your workers from contracting COVID-19.  

Facilities that are required include: 

  • washroom facilities including adequate supply of soap, water and paper towel 
  • hand sanitiser, where it is not possible for workers to wash their hands, and 
  • staff rooms that are regularly cleaned and allow for physical distancing. 

Provide workers with regular breaks to use these facilities, particularly to allow workers to wash their hands.

Duty to provide information, training, instruction and supervision

You must provide your workers with any information or training that is necessary to protect them from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 arising from their work.

Information and training may include: 

  • providing guidance on how to properly wash hands 
  • training workers in how to fit and use any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) 
  • training workers to exercise adequate cleaning practices throughout the day 
  • providing workers with instructions on how to set up a safe home workplace, and 
  • providing workers with instructions on staying home from work if sick. 

Duty to consult

You must consult with workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19. When consulting, you must give workers the opportunity to express their views and raise WHS concerns. You must take the views of workers into account and advise workers of the outcome of consultation.  

Consult with workers:

  • when you conduct a risk assessment 
  • when you make decisions on control measures to use to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 (e.g. decisions on working from home arrangements, or restricting the workplace to allow for physical distancing) 
  • when you make decisions about the adequacy of the workplace facilities to allow for control measures such as physical distancing and hygiene 
  • when you propose other changes that may affect the health and safety of workers, and 
  • when you change any procedures that have an impact on the WHS of workers.  

If you and the workers have agreed to procedures for consultation, consultation must be in accordance with those procedures. 

You must allow workers to express their views and raise WHS issues that may arise directly or indirectly because of COVID-19. You must take the views of workers into account when making decisions and advise workers of your decision.  

Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work. Involving them will help build commitment to your processes and any changes you implement. 

Consultation does not require consensus or agreement but you must allow your workers to be part of the decision making process.  

If workers are represented by health and safety representatives you must include them in the consultation process. 

The model Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination can provide more information about your duties to consult. 

Duties under WHS laws

 

The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws require you to take care of the health, safety and welfare of your workers, including yourself and other staff, contractors and volunteers, and others (clients, customers, visitors) at your workplace.

This includes:

  • providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety
  • providing adequate and accessible facilities for the welfare of workers to carry out their work, and
  • monitoring the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace for the purpose of preventing illness or injury.

The model WHS laws have been implemented in all jurisdictions except Victoria and Western Australia. 

For information on WHS duties in Victoria, refer to WorkSafe Victoria –  Occupational health and safety – your legal duties.

For information on WHS duties in Western Australia, refer to WorkSafe WA –  Employers – your responsibilities and Employees – your rights and responsibilities.

Duty to workers

You must do what you can to ensure the health and safety of your workers. You must eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 if reasonably practicable.   

If you are not able to eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19, you must minimise that risk, as far as is reasonably practicable.  

Protect workers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by, for example: 

  • considering working from home arrangements 
  • requiring workers to practice physical distancing  
  • requiring workers to practice good hygiene (e.g., through workplace policies and ensuring access to adequate and well stocked hygiene facilities)
  • requiring workers to stay home when sick, and 
  • cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly. 

Duty to other people in the workplace

You must take actions to ensure that the work of your business or undertaking is not putting the health and safety of other persons (such as customers, clients and visitors) at risk of contracting COVID-19.  

Protect others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by, for example: 

  • Requiring them to practice physical distancing, including through contactless deliveries and payments  
  • Requiring them to practice good hygiene, and  
  • Requiring others to stay away from the workplace, unless essential, e.g., such as family, friends and visitors.  

Duty to maintain the workplace and facilities

You must maintain your workplace to ensure the work environment is not putting people at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Maintain a safe work environment by, for example: 

  • cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly 
  • restructuring the layout of the workplace to allow for physical distancing, and 
  • limiting the number of people in the workplace at any given time. 

You must also provide adequate facilities in their workplace protect your workers, as much as possible from contracting COVID-19.  

Provide facilities such as: 

  • washroom facilities including adequate supply of soap, water and paper towel 
  • hand sanitiser around the workplace, where it is not possible for workers to wash their hands, and 
  • staff rooms that are regularly cleaned and allow for physical distancing

Provide workers with regular breaks to use these facilities, particularly to allow workers to wash their hands, or to access hand sanitiser where this is not possible

Duty to provide information, training, instruction and supervision

You must provide your workers with any information or training that is necessary to protect them from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 arising from their work.  

Information and training may include: 

  • providing guidance on how to properly wash hands 
  • training workers in how to fit and use any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) 
  • training workers to exercise adequate cleaning practices throughout the day 
  • providing workers with instructions on how to set up a safe home workplace, and 
  • providing workers with instructions on staying home from work if sick. 

Duty to consult

You must consult with workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19. When consulting, you must give workers the opportunity to express their views and raise WHS concerns. You must take the views of workers into account and advise workers of the outcome of consultation.  

You must consult: 

  • when you conduct a risk assessment 
  • when you make decisions on control measures to use to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 (e.g. decisions on working from home arrangements, or restricting the workplace to allow for physical distancing) 
  • when you make decisions about the adequacy of the workplace facilities to allow for control measures such as physical distancing and hygiene 
  • when you propose other changes that may affect the health and safety of workers, and 
  • when you change any procedures that have an impact on the WHS of workers.  

If you and the workers have agreed to procedures for consultation, the consultation must be in accordance with those procedures. 

You must allow workers to express their views and raise WHS issues that may arise directly or indirectly because of COVID-19. You must take the views of workers into account when making decisions and advise workers of your decision.  

Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work. Involving them will help build commitment to any changes you need to implement in the workplace.

Consultation does not require consensus or agreement but you must allow your workers to be part of the decision making process for COVID-19 related matters.  

If workers are represented by health and safety representatives you must include them in the consultation process. 

The model Code of Practice: work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination can provide more information about your duties to consult. 

Duties under WHS laws

The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws require employers to take care of the health, safety and welfare of your workers, including yourself and other staff, contractors and volunteers, and others (clients, customers, visitors) at your workplace.

This includes:

  • providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety
  • providing adequate and accessible facilities for the welfare of workers to carry out their work, and
  • monitoring the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace for the purpose of preventing illness or injury.

The model WHS laws have been implemented in all jurisdictions except Victoria and Western Australia. 

For information on WHS duties in Victoria, refer to WorkSafe Victoria –  Occupational health and safety – your legal duties.

For information on WHS duties in Western Australia, refer to WorkSafe WA –  Employers – your responsibilities and Employees – your rights and responsibilities.

Your safety responsibilities as a worker

A worker is a person who carries out work in any capacity for a business or employer or ‘person conducting a business undertaking’.  Workers include: 

  • employees 
  • trainees, apprentices or work experience students 
  • volunteers 
  • outworkers 
  • contractors or sub-contractors 
  • employees of a contractor or sub-contractor 
  • employees of a labour hire company. 

While at work you must: 

  • take reasonable care for your own health and safety 
  • take reasonable care for the health and safety of others 
  • comply with any reasonable instructions, policies and procedure given by your employer at the workplace. 

As a worker, you must take reasonable care of yourself and not do anything that would affect the health and safety of others at work (e.g. coming to work when you are unwell). 

You must follow any reasonable health and safety instructions from your employer. 

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 it is important that you: 

  • work safely and observe any new requirements for physical distancing (even if it means performing tasks in a different way to what you are used to) 
  • follow instructions (e.g. about how to wash hands thoroughly) 
  • ask if you’re not sure how to safely perform the work 
  • use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves in the way you were trained and instructed to use it, and 
  • report any unsafe or unhealthy situations (e.g. a lack of soap in the bathroom) to your supervisor or to your health and safety representative (HSR). 

Emergency plans

All businesses must have an emergency plan. Where working operations have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency plans must be reviewed and, if necessary, updated.

You should think about how you would deal with a case of COVID-19 in your workplace and how the changes to your business practices may affect your existing procedures and other information included in your plan. 

What is an emergency plan?

Businesses must prepare an emergency plan.  

An emergency plan is a written plan that sets out requirements and instructions for workers and others in the case of an emergency.  

An emergency plan must include the following: 

  • emergency procedures, including: 
    • an effective response to an emergency  
    • evacuation procedures  
    • notifying emergency service organisations at the earliest opportunity  
    • medical treatment and assistance, and  
    • effective communication between the person authorised to coordinate the emergency response and all people at the workplace
  • testing of the emergency procedures—including the frequency of testing, and  
  • information, training and instruction to relevant workers in relation to implementing the emergency procedures.  

See the Emergency plans fact sheet for more information on emergency plans. 

Will COVID-19 affect my emergency plan? 

You must ensure emergency plans are maintained to continue to capture the business or undertaking’s circumstances.  

Where working operations have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency plans must be reviewed and, if necessary, updated.  

Emergency plans must provide for workers who work at multiple workplaces, including at home. 

You must consider a range of factors when reviewing your emergency plan. You should think about how you would deal with a case of COVID-19 in your workplace and how the changes to your business practices may affect your existing procedures and other information included in your plan.  

What new information should be included in an emergency plan?

If you have workers working away from their usual workplace (i.e. working from home), then you will need to consider how this affects your plans and procedures.  

Communication practices may also need to be considered, even when you are still working from your usual workplace, if physical distancing or other measures mean that you are operating differently to when you prepared your plan.  

When reviewing and revising your plan you should also consider the application of all relevant laws, including public health laws (for example, workplaces that are also public places) and state or territory disaster plans. 

Think about practical information that your workers may need. For example, you may need to update: 

  • emergency contact details for key personnel who have specific roles or responsibilities under the emergency plan, for example fire wardens, floor wardens and first aid officers  
  • contact details for COVID-19 information lines 
  • a description of the mechanisms for alerting people to an emergency or possible emergency – this may be affected by remote working 
  • any changes to evacuation procedures or assembly points 
  • the post-incident follow-up process, including who must be notified. (This may include the process for notifying the business if a worker experiences an emergency while working from home.) 

You should also consider including triggers and processes for advising neighbouring businesses about emergencies, such as a diagnosis of COVID-19 where you share facilities with that business.  

Procedures for testing the emergency plan, including the frequency of testing must be included. 

Access to the emergency plan

Emergency plans, or a summary of key elements of emergency plans, should be readily accessible by workers.  

If some or all of your workers are working from home, you should make sure they still have access.  

Make sure emergency contact details are kept up to date.  

Training in emergency procedures

Workers must be adequately informed and trained in emergency procedures. Arrangements for informing and training workers must be set out in the emergency plan itself.  

If your emergency procedures as a result of changes to business practices from COVID-19, then workers may require additional information or training. 

For instance, if you have fewer workers on site as a result of physical distancing or working from home measures, you may need to provide additional information or training to ensure that key roles are capable of being performed and that all workers understand their responsibilities in an emergency. 

Shared workplaces

In shared workplaces, you must consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other persons who have a work health or safety duty in relation to the same matter, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes when reviewing and revising emergency plans.  

In shared workplaces (such as shopping centres, construction sites or office buildings) where there are multiple businesses, you may have a master emergency plan in place that all relevant duty holders use.  

Template

We have developed a template to help you prepare your emergency plan

Emergency plans

All businesses must have an emergency plan. Where working operations have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency plans must be reviewed and, if necessary, updated.

You should think about how you would deal with a case of COVID-19 in your workplace and how the changes to your business practices may affect your existing procedures and other information included in your plan. 

What is an emergency plan?

Businesses must prepare an emergency plan.  

An emergency plan is a written plan that sets out requirements and instructions for workers and others in the case of an emergency.  

An emergency plan must include the following: 

  • emergency procedures, including: 
    • an effective response to an emergency  
    • evacuation procedures  
    • notifying emergency service organisations at the earliest opportunity  
    • medical treatment and assistance, and  
    • effective communication between the person authorised to coordinate the emergency response and all people at the workplace
  • testing of the emergency procedures—including the frequency of testing, and  
  • information, training and instruction to relevant workers in relation to implementing the emergency procedures.  

See the Emergency plans fact sheet for more information on emergency plans. 

Will COVID-19 affect my emergency plan? 

You must ensure emergency plans are maintained to continue to capture the business or undertaking’s circumstances.  

Where working operations have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency plans must be reviewed and, if necessary, updated.  

Emergency plans must provide for workers who work at multiple workplaces, including at home. 

You must consider a range of factors when reviewing your emergency plan. You should think about how you would deal with a case of COVID-19 in your workplace and how the changes to your business practices may affect your existing procedures and other information included in your plan.  

What new information should be included in an emergency plan?

If you have workers working away from their usual workplace (i.e. working from home), then you will need to consider how this affects your plans and procedures.  

Communication practices may also need to be considered, even when you are still working from your usual workplace, if physical distancing or other measures mean that you are operating differently to when you prepared your plan.  

When reviewing and revising your plan you should also consider the application of all relevant laws, including public health laws (for example, workplaces that are also public places) and state or territory disaster plans. 

Think about practical information that your workers may need. For example, you may need to update: 

  • emergency contact details for key personnel who have specific roles or responsibilities under the emergency plan, for example fire wardens, floor wardens and first aid officers  
  • contact details for COVID-19 information lines 
  • a description of the mechanisms for alerting people to an emergency or possible emergency – this may be affected by remote working 
  • any changes to evacuation procedures or assembly points 
  • the post-incident follow-up process, including who must be notified. (This may include the process for notifying the business if a worker experiences an emergency while working from home.) 

You should also consider including triggers and processes for advising neighbouring businesses about emergencies, such as a diagnosis of COVID-19 where you share facilities with that business.  

Procedures for testing the emergency plan, including the frequency of testing must be included. 

Access to the emergency plan

Emergency plans, or a summary of key elements of emergency plans, should be readily accessible by workers.  

If some or all of your workers are working from home, you should make sure they still have access.  

Make sure emergency contact details are kept up to date.  

Training in emergency procedures

Workers must be adequately informed and trained in emergency procedures. Arrangements for informing and training workers must be set out in the emergency plan itself.  

If your emergency procedures as a result of changes to business practices from COVID-19, then workers may require additional information or training. 

For instance, if you have fewer workers on site as a result of physical distancing or working from home measures, you may need to provide additional information or training to ensure that key roles are capable of being performed and that all workers understand their responsibilities in an emergency. 

Shared workplaces

In shared workplaces, you must consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other persons who have a work health or safety duty in relation to the same matter, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes when reviewing and revising emergency plans.  

In shared workplaces (such as shopping centres, construction sites or office buildings) where there are multiple businesses, you may have a master emergency plan in place that all relevant duty holders use.  

Template

We have developed a template to help you prepare your emergency plan

 

Emergency plans

Your employer must have an emergency plan in place.  

You should see if the plan has changed because of COVID-19. It may now include information on how cases of COVID-19 are to be dealt with as well as updates to procedures where there have been changes to the way the business is operating.  

Check with your employer if you think the emergency plan needs updating. 

What is an emergency plan?

An emergency plan is a written plan that sets out requirements and instructions for workers and others in the case of an emergency.  

An emergency plan must include the following: 

  • emergency procedures, including: 
    • an effective response to an emergency  
    • evacuation procedures  
    • notifying emergency service organisations at the earliest opportunity  
    • medical treatment and assistance, and  
    • effective communication between the person authorised to coordinate the emergency response and all people at the workplace  
  • testing of the emergency procedures,—including the frequency of testing, and  
  • information, training and instructions to relevant workers in relation to implementing the emergency procedures.  

See the Emergency plans fact sheet for more information on emergency plans. 

What do I need to do? 

It’s important that you are familiar with the emergency plan for your workplace, because you must know what to do in the case of an emergency. Even if you are still working from your usual workplace, the plan and procedures may have changed as a result of COVID-19.  

You should check the emergency plan to see if anything has changed. Examples of things that may have changed include contact details of key staff and the process that you should follow if there is an emergency when you are working from home, including notifying your employer.  

You should know where to find a copy of the emergency plan so that you can quickly refer to it if necessary. Speak with your employer if you do not have access to the plan. 

Your employer has an obligation to ensure the emergency plan is maintained to continue to capture the business’s circumstances. If operations have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, your employer must review and, if necessary, update the emergency plan. The plan must include information for workers who are now working from home or another location. 

If your plan has not been updated and you believe there should be new procedures in place, then you should speak with your employer or health and safety representative. 

Training

Your employer must ensure that you have been adequately informed about, and trained in, emergency procedures. These arrangements must also be set out in the emergency plan itself.  

If procedures change significantly to align with changed business practices due to COVID-19, then you may require new or additional information and training.  

Talk with your employer if you are unsure about anything in the emergency plan. 

Family & domestic violence

See Safe Work Australia’s Information sheet: Family and domestic violence at the workplace for further guidance about duties under WHS laws and how to manage the risks of family and domestic violence at the workplace.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice.  

If a worker is in immediate danger, call 000. 

Family and domestic violence can become more frequent and severe during periods of emergency. Public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as self-isolation and working from home arrangements, may increase workers’ exposure to family and domestic violence. Financial pressures, increased stress and disconnection from support networks can also exacerbate the underlying conditions that lead to violence. 

What are my WHS duties?

You must ensure workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety, including from family and domestic violence in the workplace. This includes where the workplace is a worker’s home. You must take a systematic approach to managing risk with the aim of eliminating the risk, or if this is not possible, minimising the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. In the event that it is not possible for the worker to be safe at home, an alternative work environment must be provided, so far as reasonably practicable. 

You have a duty to do what is reasonably practicable to ensure workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety while undertaking work from home. You need to do what is reasonably practicable to identify the risks, such as providing a safe environment for disclosure, assuring confidentiality and not requiring workers to provide unnecessary personal details. But some risks might be outside your control, such as where a worker chooses not to disclose a risk of family or domestic violence or does not tell you that they cannot work safely at home. Workers and others at the workplace also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and not adversely affect the health and safety of themselves or others. This includes following any reasonable instruction given to comply with a health and safety duty. 

You need to identify hazards, assess the risks and control the risks.  

You must consult workers on physical and psychological hazards and risks in the workplace and on how to manage them before you make decisions in relation to your control measures. They will be best placed to know what the issues are and have ideas about how to manage them.  

Review how you are managing the risks to check your controls are working.  

How do I communicate with my workers about family and domestic violence?

Encourage workers to discuss with you any concerns they may have about their health and safety, as they may have important information that ought to be considered before work arrangements change (e.g. if they are working from home). Continued communication is crucial when your workers are working from home.  

Workers should be assured that any information will be treated confidentially and securely, to the extent possible and as required by law. 

If through these conversations a worker discloses to you they are experiencing violence, or you suspect they may not be safe at work, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice. The Our Watch website also has a workplace guide for responding to disclosures of violence. 

If a worker or anyone at your workplace is in immediate danger, call 000.

What if my workers witness family and domestic violence?

 If your workers witness or see signs of family and domestic violence while undertaking work, you should contact 1800 RESPECT for advice.

Managing the risk of family and domestic violence in the workplace

Sometimes family and domestic violence will be a WHS issue. Family and domestic violence presents a work-related hazard if the perpetrator makes threats or carries out violence on a family member while they are at work, including if a worker’s workplace is their home.   

Workplaces can play an important role in preventing and responding to family violence by providing a safe and supportive working environment for all workers. This involves: 

  • Communicate family and domestic violence as a workplace issue and develop workplace policies and procedures to address it. The Australian Human Rights Commission provides guidance on how you can do this. If you already have policies and procedures in place, they should be reviewed to ensure they are applicable in the current COVID-19 situation, particularly where workers are not in their usual workplace (such as working from home). 
  • Consult workers about work arrangements and managing risks to health and safety. Consider holding one-on-one discussions to ensure their needs, experiences and individual circumstances are considered and information is treated as sensitive and confidential.   
  • Assure workers of their right to confidentiality and support if they choose to disclose family and domestic violence. 
  • Communicate support which is available to workers, including Health and Safety Representatives and employee assistance programs. 
  • Provide all workers with education and training to raise their awareness of family and domestic violence, its potential effects in the workplace and how to manage risks.  
  • Communicate the availability of entitlements such as paid/unpaid family and domestic violence leave, flexible work arrangements and other entitlements which support workers experiencing family and domestic violence. 
  • Provide information about counselling, legal, health, financial and other family and domestic violence support services.  
  • Ensure workers supporting those who are experiencing family and domestic violence are aware of the support options available to them, including employee assistance programs.   
  • Provide a safe, secure and accessible reporting mechanism, including properly trained contact people within the workplace. 

Ensure workers are safe at work (when the workplace is not a person’s home)

  • If possible, ensure the building or workplace is secure and entry is controlled, e.g. through swipe card or pin code access. 
  • Visitors should be clearly identified to avoid accidentally allowing a person known to use violence to enter the workplace. 
  • Where possible, separate workers from the public. 
  • Consider flexible working arrangements, such as adjustments to working hours or work locations. 
  • Ensure communication and duress alarm systems are in place, where needed. 
  • Consider contact information screening, e.g. email, phone numbers, devices, internet profile. 
  • Develop and put in place procedures for an emergency response to instances of family and domestic violence in the workplace, including when to involve police. 
  • Ensure those in the workplace have a safe, secure place to retreat to in the event of an incident. 
  • Change work email addresses or phone numbers if instances of family and domestic violence have occurred through electronic or telephone contact. 

If a worker or people at your workplace are in immediate danger, call 000. 

If an incident occurs at the workplace, you should: 

  • ensure that everyone is safe 
  • provide first aid or urgent medical attention where necessary 
  • provide support where required, including psychological support to the victim and other workers 
  • depending in the circumstances, you may need to report what happened to Police on 131 444. 

You may also need to notify your state or territory WHS regulator if the incident is a ‘notifiable incident’ (see the Incident Notification fact sheet for more information). 

Working from home

Workplaces can be a place of refuge for workers experiencing family and domestic violence and a crucial source of social and economic support.  

The model WHS laws still apply if workers work somewhere other than their usual workplace, which includes working from home. Workers experiencing family and domestic violence may be placed at greater risk because of working from home arrangements. 

When starting working from home arrangements, you must identify and manage the risks. Consulting your workers will be essential in identifying and managing risks given you may have limited knowledge of your workers’ home environment. Encourage workers to discuss with you any specific or individual concerns they may have with respect to their health and safety, or the impact any proposed control measures may have on them. This is particularly important for workers experiencing family and domestic violence because they will know the most about their personal circumstances and may have important information that ought to be considered before work arrangements change.   

If the worker has disclosed family and domestic violence, consider developing or adjusting their safety plan for working from home in consultation with their treating medical practitioner or health professional (if available). For more information on safety planning, contact 1800 Respect.  

What you can do to minimise risks at a worker's home will be different to what you can do at the usual workplace. You should: 

  • Maintain regular communication with workers. Avoid directly asking about the worker experiencing family and domestic violence about the violence as this may unintentionally place the worker at risk of serious harm. It is common for perpetrators of family and domestic violence to monitor their partner’s communication including emails, text messages and phone calls. 
  • Agree on a course of action if you are not able to contact the worker for a defined period.
  • Appoint a contact person in the business that workers can talk to about any concerns.  
  • Provide work phones and laptops to enhance autonomy and digital security.
  • Provide continued access to an employee assistance program or other support programs. 

If working from home isn’t a safe option for the worker, an alternative work environment must be provided, so far as is reasonably practicable. For example, allowing the worker to work from an alternative location or allowing them to work from the office.
 

Family and domestic violence leave

Under national workplace laws, workers dealing with of family and domestic violence can: 

  • take unpaid family and domestic violence leave 
  • request flexible working arrangements 
  • take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave, in certain circumstances. 

Some workplaces may also offer paid leave for workers experiencing family and domestic violence. 

You can find information about supporting workers experiencing family and domestic violence in the Fair Work Ombudsman Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence

What about confidentiality? 

It is important that workplaces develop supportive environments in which workers feel safe to discuss family and domestic violence issues.  

All workers should be made aware of any mandatory reporting obligations that you have as the employer, either under state and territory laws or as part of the worker’s employment contract, that may limit confidentiality. For example, this may include where there is a reasonable belief that child abuse is occurring.

To create an environment where workers feel confident to talk about their experience of family and domestic violence, you should be able to demonstrate that such information will be kept private and confidential. Confidentiality is important because workers may not be willing to talk about their experience without knowing it is confidential. 

Any information about a worker’s experience of family and domestic violence is sensitive and confidential. Workplaces should take all reasonable steps to ensure any information disclosed by workers regarding family and domestic violence is kept confidential and secure. Consider how you will sensitively treat personal information to protect a person’s right to privacy and implement mechanisms to protect their privacy e.g. privacy settings on hazard and incident reporting systems. Discuss with your workers how this information will be handled.
 
Disclosure should be on a need to know basis and only to maintain safety. Keep in mind that any mishandling of information may place the worker at an increased risk of violence by the perpetrator. Disclosure may have serious consequences for the worker’s safety. Where possible, disclosure should only occur with the express consent of the worker. 

Family and domestic violence in the workplace is a complex issue and you may wish to seek further advice from your employer organisation or other work health and safety and employment law professionals.  
 

Other resources

 

Family & domestic violence

See Safe Work Australia’s Information sheet: Family and domestic violence at the workplace for further guidance about duties under WHS laws and how to manage the risks of family and domestic violence at the workplace.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice.  

If a worker is in immediate danger, call 000. 

For some workers, the COVID-19 pandemic might lead to a greater exposure to family and domestic violence, or the level of violence increasing.  

Family and domestic violence becomes a WHS issue if the perpetrator makes threats or carries out violence on a family member while they are at work, including if a worker’s workplace is their home. 

Family and domestic violence in the workplace is a complex issue. The free resources and services listed below may be able to assist you or you may wish to seek further advice from your employer organisation or other work health and safety and employment law professional.  

Your duty is to eliminate or minimise the risks in the workplace so far as reasonably practicable. This include physical and mental health and safety risks. 

Your duties extend to working from home arrangements. If it is not possible for the worker to be safe at home then an alternative work environment must be provided, so far as reasonably practicable. 

You must identify the risks so far as reasonably practicable. This means providing a safe environment for disclosure, assuring confidentiality and not requiring workers to provide unnecessary personal details. You or other workers may also notice signs of family and domestic violence.  

You need to consider when, where and how your workers might be exposed to violence and manage those risks.  

Some risks might be outside your control, such as where a worker chooses not to disclose a risk of family or domestic violence or does not tell you that they cannot work safely at home.  

Workers and others at the workplace also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and not adversely affect the health and safety of themselves or others. This includes following any reasonable instruction given to comply with a health and safety duty. 

Encourage workers to talk to you about any concerns they may have about their health and safety, as they may have important information that ought to be considered before work arrangements change (e.g. if they are now working from home). Continued communication is crucial when your workers are working from home.  

If through these conversations a worker discloses to you they are experiencing violence, or you suspect they may not be safe at work, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice. The Our Watch website also has a workplace guide for responding to disclosures of violence. 

If a worker is in immediate danger, call 000. 

Check that your controls are working and whether there is anything more you can do to prevent violence from happening in your small business.  

What if my workers witness family and domestic violence?

If a worker or anyone at your workplace is in immediate danger, call 000.

If your workers witness or see signs of family and domestic violence while undertaking work, you should contact 1800 RESPECT for advice.

Managing the risk of family and domestic violence in the workplace 

Your small business can play an important role in preventing and responding to family violence by providing a safe and supportive working environment for all workers.  

Ensure workers are safe at work (when the workplace is not a person’s home) 

  • If possible, ensure the building or workplace is secure and entry is controlled (e.g. pin code access). 
  • Where possible, separate workers from the public, especially if working alone or at night. 
  • Consider flexible working arrangements, such as adjustments to working hours or work locations. 
  • Consider contact information screening (e.g. email, phone numbers) and change work email addresses or phone numbers if instances of family and domestic violence have occurred through electronic or telephone contact 
  • Have procedures for an emergency response to instances of family and domestic violence in the workplace, including when to involve police. 
  • Ensure those in the workplace have a safe, secure place to retreat to in the event of an incident. 

If a worker or people at your workplace are in immediate danger, call 000.  

If an incident occurs at the workplace, you should:

  • ensure that everyone is safe 
  • provide first aid or urgent medical attention where necessary 
  • provide support where required, including psychological support to the victim and other workers 
  • depending in the circumstances, you may need to report what happened to Police on 131 444. 

You may also need to notify your state or territory WHS regulator if the incident is a ‘notifiable incident’ (see the Incident Notification fact sheet for more information). 

Working from home

Workers experiencing family and domestic violence may be placed at greater risk because of working from home arrangements. 

Your WHS duties still apply if workers work somewhere other than their usual workplace, such as working from home.  

When organising working from home arrangements, talk to your workers about risks and offer support to manage these risks. Encourage workers to raise any concerns they may have about their health and safety, or the impact any proposed control measures may have on them. Workers experiencing family and domestic violence will know the most about their personal circumstances and may have important information that you need to consider before work arrangements change.  

For more information on safety planning, contact 1800 Respect.  

You should maintain regular communication with workers. Avoid directly asking the worker experiencing family and domestic violence about the violence as this may unintentionally place the worker at risk of serious harm. It is common for perpetrators to monitor their partner’s communication including emails, text messages and phone calls. Agree on a course of action if you are not able to contact the worker for a defined period.

If working from home isn’t a safe option for the worker, consider alternative arrangements that you can make to support them, for example working from an alternative location or allowing them to work from the office. 

Family and domestic violence leave 

Under national workplace laws, workers dealing with family and domestic violence can: 

  • take unpaid family and domestic violence leave 
  • request flexible working arrangements 
  • take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave, in certain circumstances. 

Some workplaces may also offer paid leave for workers experiencing family and domestic violence. 

You can find information about supporting workers experiencing family and domestic violence in the Fair Work Ombudsman Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence

What about confidentiality? 

To create an environment where workers feel confident to talk about workplace risks from family and domestic violence, you should demonstrate that information will be kept private and confidential. 

All workers should be made aware of any mandatory reporting obligations that you have as the employer, either under state and territory laws or as part of the worker’s employment contract, that may limit confidentiality. For example, this may include where there is a reasonable belief that child abuse is occurring.

Disclosure should be on a need to know basis and only to maintain safety. Keep in mind that any mishandling of information may place the worker at an increased risk of violence by the perpetrator. Disclosure may have serious consequences for the worker’s safety. Where possible, disclosure should only occur with the express consent of the worker.  

Other resources

Family & domestic violence

See Safe Work Australia’s Information sheet: Family and domestic violence at the workplace for further guidance about duties under WHS laws and how to manage the risks of family and domestic violence at the workplace.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice.  

If a worker is in immediate danger, call 000. 

Family and domestic violence can become more frequent and severe during periods of emergency. Public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as self-isolation and work from home arrangements, may increase workers’ exposure to family and domestic violence. Financial pressures, increased stress and disconnection from support networks can also exacerbate the underlying conditions that lead to violence. 

What if I witness family and domestic violence at the workplace?

If a worker or anyone at your workplace is in immediate danger, call 000.  

If you witness or see signs of family and domestic violence while carrying out your work, you should contact 1800 RESPECT for advice.

Talk to your employer

Workplaces can play an important role in preventing and responding to family violence by providing a safe and supportive working environment for all workers. 

You should discuss with your employer any concerns that you have about your health and safety so your employer can manage those risks in the workplace. If you choose to disclose that you are experiencing family and domestic violence, your employer must treat this information confidentially.  

It is particularly important to talk to your employer about any concerns you have if you are being asked to work from home. If your home is not safe, you should tell your employer as they must provide alternative working arrangements so far as is reasonably practicable, such as working from a different location or allowing you to work from the office. 

Who else can I talk to?

If workers at your workplace are represented by Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) you may wish to talk to them about your concerns. In addition, if you are a member of a trade union or employee association, they may also be able to help you. 

Family and domestic violence leave 

Under national workplace laws, all workers dealing with family and domestic violence can: 

  • take unpaid family and domestic violence leave 
  • request flexible working arrangements 
  • take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave, in certain circumstances. 

Your employer may also offer paid leave if you are experiencing family and domestic violence. 

You should speak to your employer about your leave entitlements or contact the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94. 

WHS duties

Your employer has a duty to ensure that workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety, including from family and domestic violence in the workplace.  

You also have a duty to take reasonable care of your own health and safety, and not adversely affect the health and safety of yourself or others. This includes following any reasonable instruction given by your employer to comply with a health and safety duty. 

Other resources

 

Gloves

Practising physical distancing and maintaining good hygiene is the best defence against the spread of COVID-19 and will usually be a better control measure than wearing gloves.

While gloves (such as disposable or multi-use) should still be used for some practices (such as food handling, cleaning, gardening and trades), washing hands with soap and water is one of the best defences to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

Washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient can help to minimise the spread of germs.  

If gloves are not used appropriately, they can pose a risk of spreading germs, putting workers and others at risk. When a person wears gloves, they may come into contact with germs which can then be transferred to other objects or their face. Gloves are not a substitute for frequent hand washing.  

Gloves should be replaced regularly. Multi-use gloves should be washed and stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions or workplace policy. Disposable gloves should not be re-used and multi-use gloves should not be shared between workers. 

It is important that you keep up to date with recommendations and directions about the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) that apply nationally, and in your state or territory, and ensure that these are followed at your workplace. This may include instruction about the wearing of gloves in specific circumstances.

Who should wear gloves to protect against COVID-19?

You should consider whether using gloves or hand washing is the best measure for preventing the spread of germs in your workplace. This involves thinking about what workers will touch, how long the task will take, who workers may come into contact with and the practicality of using gloves for a task. It may be more practical to require workers to wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser than to wear gloves. 

Importantly, not all gloves are appropriate for all tasks. A risk assessment with appropriate consultation must be conducted to help inform what gloves are appropriate for your workplace.  See also our information on risk assessment and consultation.

It is important that you keep up to date with recommendations and directions about the wearing of PPE that apply nationally , and in your state or territory, and ensure that these are followed at your workplace. This may include instruction about the wearing of gloves in specific circumstances.

If workers will be required to wear disposable gloves, be aware that wearing gloves may result in new WHS risks. For example, wearing disposable gloves could cause skin irritation, contact dermatitis or other sensitivities in some workers. 

For some industries, gloves are used to protect against other (non-COVID-19) hazards. You should consider whether you need to review or modify this practice as a result of COVID-19 to ensure adequate hygiene is maintained. In all workplaces, workers must ensure they are complying with good hygiene practices, including hand washing. 

If you are going to supply or use gloves in your workplace, make sure the gloves are suitable for the work of your business or undertaking. For example, gloves made of PVC, rubber, nitrile or neoprene are recommended for protection against exposure to ‘biological hazards’. 

Medical gloves form part of the PPE for those who work in health care and patients to protect them from the spread of infection. Medical gloves protect the wearer and the patient. Not all gloves are medical grade. Disposable, non-sterile gloves that are not medical grade are also available. 

Medical gloves include: 

  • examination gloves (sterile and non-sterile) 
  • surgical gloves, and 
  • chemotherapy gloves. 

Medical gloves can be made of latex, vinyl, synthetic polymer or nitrile. Use of medical grade gloves should be restricted to health care settings . 

Information on wearing gloves in health care settings can be found at the Australian Government Department of Health website. 

Do I need to provide gloves?

Depending on your workplace (type of work, the workers and others who come into the workplace), gloves can be provided as PPE. However, gloves won’t be necessary in many workplaces. 

A risk assessment and appropriate consultation must be conducted to help inform what gloves, if any, are appropriate for your workplace. 

It is also important that you keep up to date with recommendations and directions about the wearing of PPE that apply nationally, and in your state or territory, and ensure that these are followed at your workplace. This may include instruction about the wearing of gloves in specific circumstances.

If you are going to supply or use gloves, you should make sure the gloves are suitable for the work; not all gloves are appropriate for all work or workplaces. For example, medical gloves  are commonly made of natural rubber latex or other synthetic materials (e.g. nitrile) and are effective to protect against exposure to ‘biological hazards’. 

Be aware that wearing gloves may result in new WHS risks. For example, wearing disposable gloves could cause skin irritation, contact dermatitis or other sensitivities in some workers.

When providing gloves, workers must be trained in how to put on, use, remove and dispose of gloves. You must provide the appropriate facilities to use gloves properly including a hand washing area, with adequate soap, water and paper towels and a closed bin for disposal. See below for information about on how to put on and take off gloves, and how to dispose of gloves correctly. 

Even if your workers wear gloves in your workplace, you should ensure that they have good hygiene practices including washing hands frequently.

See also our information on hygiene.

How to put on and take off gloves

If a worker is wearing gloves, either disposable or multi-use, they should be instructed to follow the steps below to prevent the spread of germs: 

1. Before starting (and after finishing a task), wash your hands with soap and water or if not available, with alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

  • Wash your hands before touching a pair of gloves.  
  • When putting the gloves on try to only touch the top edge of the glove at the wrist.

2. During the task: maintain good hygiene by not touching your face and coughing or sneezing into your elbow. Monitor what you touch and replace your gloves frequently. 

  • Replace your gloves every time you would wash or sanitise your hands. 

3. After completing the task, think about what you’ve touched and consider whether there is a risk of spreading the germs from your gloves if you start a new task. Your work task may not vary much but could involve touching different objects or attending to different customers or people. Consider whether using a new pair of disposable gloves or hand washing or using hand sanitiser is the best measure for the next task.

4. Taking off gloves: 

  • Carefully remove the first glove by gripping at the wrist edge without touching the skin and pull downwards away from the wrist, turning the glove inside out.  
  • With the ungloved hand, slide your fingers into the glove and peel the glove downwards away from the wrist, turning the glove inside out.   
  • If you are wearing disposable gloves dispose of them in a closed bin (refer below for information on disposal).  
  • If you are wearing multi-use gloves clean and store them according to the manufacturer’s instructions or your workplace policy. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds), or if not available, with alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 

There is an infographic for putting and removing gloves on the Australian Government Department of Health website

How to dispose of gloves

Unless contaminated, disposable gloves can be disposed of with the general waste, preferably a closed bin. A closed bin is a bin with a fitted lid. 

Where the gloves are contaminated, they should be disposed of in a closed bin, preferably one that does not need to be touched to place contaminated gloves inside. A bin with a foot pedal or other hands-free mechanism to open the lid would be appropriate. 

The bin for contaminated gloves should contain two bin liners to ensure the waste is double bagged. Double bagging minimises any exposure to the person disposing of the waste.

Gloves would be considered contaminated if:

  • they have been worn by a symptomatic worker or visitor to the workplace, or
  • they have been worn by a close contact of a confirmed COVID case, or 
  • the wearer has touched a potentially contaminated surface.

Where a closed bin is not available, the contaminated gloves should be placed in a sealed bag before disposal into the bin. The sealed bag and a single bin liner are considered equivalent to double bagging.

It is important to follow good hand hygiene after removing and disposing of your gloves. Hands should be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water (for a minimum of 20 seconds) or hand sanitiser. 

If you have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, your state or territory health authority should provide you with advice on what you need to do in your workplace. Follow their instructions. 

For information about the disposal of gloves in health care settings, you will need to refer to the Australian Government Department of Health and state and territory health authorities.
 

Gloves

Practising physical distancing and maintaining good hygiene is the best defence against the spread of COVID-19 and will usually be a better control measure than wearing gloves.

While gloves (such as disposable or multi-use) should still be used for some practices (such as food handling, cleaning, gardening and trades), washing hands with soap and water is one of the best defences to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

You and your workers must wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient to minimise the spread of germs.

If gloves are not used appropriately, they can pose a risk of spreading germs, putting you, your workers and others at risk. When a person wears gloves, they may come into contact with germs which can then be transferred to other objects or their face. Gloves are not a substitute for frequent hand washing. 

Gloves should be replaced regularly. Multi-use gloves should be washed and stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions or workplace policy. Disposable gloves should not be re-used and multi-use gloves should not be shared between workers.

It is important that you keep up to date with recommendations and directions about the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) that apply nationally, and in your state or territory, and ensure that these are followed at your workplace. This may include instruction about the wearing of gloves in specific circumstances.

Who should wear gloves to protect against COVID-19?

You should consider whether using gloves or washing of hands is the best measure for preventing the spread of germs in your workplace. This involves thinking about what workers will touch, how long the task will take, who workers may come into contact with and the practicality of using gloves for a task. It may be more practical to require workers to wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser than to wear gloves. 

Importantly, not all gloves are appropriate for all tasks. A risk assessment with appropriate consultation must be conducted to help inform what gloves are appropriate for your workplace. See also our information on risk assessments and consultation.

It is important that you keep up to date with recommendations and directions about the wearing of PPE that apply nationally, and in your state or territory, and ensure that these are followed at your workplace. This may include instruction about the wearing of gloves in specific circumstances.

If you and your workers will be required to wear disposable gloves, be aware that wearing gloves may result in new WHS risks. For example, wearing disposable gloves could cause skin irritation, contact dermatitis or other sensitivities in some workers.

For some industries, gloves are used to protect against other (non-COVID-19) hazards. You should consider whether you need to review or modify this practice as a result of COVID-19 to ensure adequate hygiene is maintained. In all workplaces, workers must ensure they are complying with good hygiene practices, including hand washing.

If you are going to supply or use gloves in your workplace, make sure the gloves are suitable for the work of your business or undertaking. For example, gloves made of PVC, rubber, nitrile or neoprene are recommended for protection against exposure to ‘biological hazards’. 

Medical gloves form part of the PPE for those who work in health care and patients to protect them from the spread of infection. Medical gloves protect the wearer and the patient. Not all gloves are medical grade. Disposable, non-sterile gloves that are not medical grade are also available. 

Medical gloves include: 

  • examination gloves (sterile and non-sterile) 
  • surgical gloves, and 
  • chemotherapy gloves. 

Medical gloves can be made of latex, vinyl, synthetic polymer or nitrile. Use of medical grade gloves should be restricted to health care settings.

Information on wearing gloves in health care settings can be found at the Australian Government Department of Health website. 

Do I need to provide gloves?

Depending on your workplace (type of work, the workers and others who come into the workplace), gloves can be provided as PPE. However, gloves won’t be necessary in many workplaces. 

A risk assessment and appropriate consultation must be conducted to help inform what gloves, if any, are appropriate for your workplace. 

It is also important that you keep up to date with recommendations and directions about the wearing of PPE that apply nationally, and in your state or territory, and ensure that these are followed at your workplace. This may include instruction about the wearing of gloves in specific circumstances.

If you are going to supply or use gloves, you should make sure the gloves are suitable for the work; not all gloves are appropriate for all work or workplaces. For example, medical gloves are commonly made of natural rubber latex or other synthetic materials (e.g. nitrile) and are effective to protect against exposure to ‘biological hazards’.

Be aware that wearing gloves may result in new WHS risks. For example, wearing disposable gloves could cause skin irritation, contact dermatitis or other sensitivities in some workers.

When providing gloves, workers must be trained in how to put on, use, remove and dispose of gloves. You must provide the appropriate facilities to use gloves properly including a hand washing area, with adequate soap, water and paper towels and a closed bin for disposal. See below for information about on how to put on and take off gloves, and how to dispose of gloves correctly. 

Even if you or your workers wear gloves in your workplace, you should ensure that they have good hygiene practices including washing hands frequently.

See also our information on hygiene.

How to put on and take off gloves

If you or your workers wear gloves, either disposable or multi-use, you can follow the steps below to prevent the spread of germs: 

1. Before starting (and after finishing a task), wash your hands with soap and water or if not available, with alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

  • Wash your hands before touching a pair of gloves.  
  • When putting the gloves on try to only touch the top edge of the glove at the wrist.

2. During the task: maintain good hygiene by not touching your face and coughing or sneezing into your elbow. Monitor what you touch and replace your gloves frequently. 

  • Replace your gloves every time you would wash or sanitise your hands. 

3. After completing the task, think about what you’ve touched and consider whether there is a risk of spreading the germs from your gloves if you start a new task. Your work tasks may not vary much but could involve touching different objects or attending to different customers or people. Consider whether using a new pair of disposable gloves, hand washing or using hand sanitiser is the best measure for the next task.

4. Taking off gloves: 

  • Carefully remove the first glove by gripping at the wrist edge without touching the skin and pull downwards away from the wrist, turning the glove inside out.  
  • With the ungloved hand, slide your fingers into the glove and peel the glove downwards away from the wrist, turning the glove inside out.   
  • If you are wearing disposable gloves dispose of them in a closed bin (refer below for information on disposal).  
  • If you are wearing multi-use gloves clean and store them according to the manufacturer’s instructions or your workplace policy. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds), or if not available, with alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 

There is an infographic on putting and removing gloves on the Australian Government Department of Health website. 

How to dispose of gloves

Unless contaminated, disposable gloves can be disposed of with the general waste, preferably a closed bin. A closed bin is a bin with a fitted lid. 

Where the gloves are contaminated, they should be disposed of in a closed bin, preferably one that does not need to be touched to place contaminated gloves inside. A bin with a foot pedal or other hands-free mechanism to open the lid would be appropriate. 

The bin for contaminated gloves should contain two bin liners to ensure the waste is double bagged. Double bagging minimises any exposure to the person disposing of the waste.

Gloves would be considered contaminated if:

  • they have been worn by a symptomatic worker or visitor to the workplace, or
  • they have been worn by a close contact of a confirmed COVID case, or 
  • the wearer has touched a potentially contaminated surface.

Where a closed bin is not available, the contaminated gloves should be placed in a sealed bag before disposal into the bin. The sealed bag and a single bin liner are considered equivalent to double bagging.

It is important to follow good hand hygiene after removing and disposing of your gloves. Hands should be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water (for a minimum of 20 seconds) or hand sanitiser. 

If you have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, your state or territory health authority should provide you with advice on what you need to do in your workplace. Follow their instructions. 

For information about the disposal of gloves in health care settings, you will need to refer to the Australian Government Department of Health and state and territory health authorities.