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 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 requiring workers and others to practice good hygiene. Below are measures to ensure good hygiene in your workplace.
Remember, you must consult with workers and health and safety representatives on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.
Worker and visitor hygiene
You must direct your workers, customer and others in the workplace to practice good hygiene while at the workplace. Good hygiene requires everyone to wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them completely, preferably with a clean, single use paper towel. If paper towels are unavailable, other methods such as electric hand dryers can be used, however, hands will still need to be dried completely.
Everyone must wash and dry their hands:
- before and after eating
- after coughing or sneezing
- after going to the toilet, and
- when changing tasks and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
When it is not possible to wash hands, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient must be used as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Good hygiene also requires everyone at the workplace to, at all times:
- cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow or a clean tissue (and no spitting)
- avoid touching their face, eyes, nose and mouth
- dispose of tissues and cigarette butts hygienically, e.g. in closed bins
- wash and dry their hands completely before and after smoking a cigarette
- clean and disinfect shared equipment and plant after use
- wash body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day, and
- have no intentional physical contact, for example, shaking hands and patting backs.
To enhance good hygiene outcomes:
- develop infection control policies in consultation with your workers. These policies should outline measures in place to prevent the spread of infectious diseases at the workplace. Communicate these policies to workers
- use electronic paper work where possible. Instruct your driver to use their own pen if they are required to sign for a pick-up or delivery
- encourage contactless payment where possible
- train workers on the importance of washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them correctly, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, before entering and exiting a common area
- place posters near handwashing facilities showing how to correctly wash and dry hands (for example, if hand dryers are used, place posters advising that hands should be dried completely before finishing) and clean hands with sanitiser, and
- inform workers of workplace hygiene standards that are expected when utilising common areas (cleaning up after yourself, placing rubbish in bins provided, avoiding putting items such as phones on meal surfaces, etc.).
You should put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of hygiene measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective.
What do I need to consider when providing hygiene facilities?
You must ensure there are adequate and accessible facilities to achieve good hygiene and that they are in good working order, are clean and are otherwise safe.
You may need to provide additional washing facilities, change rooms and dining facilities. You must also consider whether there are an adequate number of hand washing and drying stations, in convenient locations, to sustain the increase in workers’ practicing good hygiene.
You may need to provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser in appropriate locations, such as entry and exits, if there are limited hand washing facilities available.
Washroom facilities must be properly stocked and have adequate supplies of toilet paper, soap, water, and drying facilities (preferably single-use paper towels). They must also be kept clean and in good working order.
When determining what facilities you need, consider the number of workers on site, the shift arrangements and when access to these facilities is required. If you have temporarily down-sized worker numbers in response to COVID-19 and these will now be increased, you must take this into account to determine the facilities you need before workers return to work.
I need to create a new eating or common area. What should I consider when making these new areas?
If creating a new eating or common area to enable physical distancing, you must ensure these areas are accessible from the workplace and adequately equipped (e.g drinking water, rubbish bins), and protected from the elements, contaminants and hazards.
You should also consider opening windows or adjusting air-conditioning for more ventilation in common areas and limiting or reducing recirculated air-conditioning where possible.
For further information on providing adequate and accessible facilities, including providing facilities for a temporary, mobile or remote workplace see our related information about consultation and the Model Code of Practice: Managing the work environment and facilities.
Why are paper towels preferred over hand dryers?
Paper towels are preferable as they can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by drying the hands more thoroughly than hand dryers.
Hand dryers can still be used, however, there is an increased risk of transmission if hands are not dried properly.
I am providing paper towels in my workplace. What else should I do?
Providing paper towels to dry your hands after washing them is better than using hand dryers because they can dry your hands more thoroughly. If you provide single used paper towels at your workplace, remember:
- the paper towels should be replenished as required, and
- used paper towels should be disposed of in a waste bin that is regularly emptied to keep the area clean, tidy and safe.
Wastes (including used paper towels) should be double bagged and set aside in a safe place for at least 72 hours before disposal into general waste facilities. For further information regarding cleaning, please refer to our cleaning guide.
What if I can’t provide paper towels?
If paper towels cannot be provided, then hand dryers may be used to dry hands. You must train workers on how to dry their hands. Placing posters near hand dryers may assist with communicating the need for hands to be dried completely. If hands are not dried completely, good hygiene will not be achieved, and the hand washing will be ineffective.
Frequently touched areas of the hand dryers (i.e. buttons to activate the drying mechanism of the hand dryer) and the entire body of the dryer should be cleaned regularly. Nearby surfaces (such as the sink and taps) should also be cleaned regularly to remove any germs that may have been spread when drying hands.