Worker and client interactions
- Check the physical distancing requirements on your relevant state or territory government website.
- If your jurisdiction requires businesses to limit the number of people in an enclosed area:
- calculate the area of the enclosed space (length multiplied by width in metres) and divide by the number of square metres allowed/recommended per person (e.g. 4 square metres). This will provide you with the maximum number of people you should have in the space at any one time.
- Request clients stay away from the area where workers are performing work.
- For example, residents of the house may stay in one room whilst a tradesperson performs their work in another room. Then the tradesperson and residents rotate so the tradesperson can perform work in the other area.
- If residents of the house must be in the same area as your worker, calculate the area where your worker is and set an upper limit on the number of people who may be in that area at any one time in order to ensure there is the allowed/recommended space per person (or where that is not possible, the maximum amount of space per person).
- Where possible interact with the client outside.
- For example, a tradesperson consulting with a client about replacing their guttering does not have to enter the house and should avoid doing so.
- Request contactless payment where possible instead of cash and use electronic paper work where possible to minimise physical interaction. Where possible, set up alternatives to requiring signatures.
Worker interactions and work tasks
- Where possible direct workers to keep 1.5 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice.
- Where it is practical and safe to do so, review tasks and processes that usually require close interaction and identify ways to modify these to increase physical distancing between workers. Where not possible, reduce the amount of time workers spend in close contact. See also our information on what to do if your workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres.
Staff gatherings and training
- Postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training.
- If gatherings, meetings or training are essential:
- use non face-to-face options to conduct – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing
- if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to
- hold the gathering, meeting or training in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart and 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, and
- ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors.
See also our information on training.
On-going review and monitoring
- If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks (e.g. because they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task), you need to manage those risks too.
- Put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of physical distancing measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective
My workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres when performing work. Does this mean they cannot perform work?
It will not always be possible for workers and others to keep 1.5 metres apart at all times at the workplace. For example, workers may have to work closely with each other or others because of the nature of the task, such as:
- a plumber and an apprentice working in a small bathroom, or
- removalists moving furniture.
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 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 only
- staggering start, finish and break times where appropriate
- moving work tasks to different areas of the workplace or off-site if possible
- if possible, separating workers into dedicated teams and have them work the same shift or work in a particular area and consider whether these dedicated teams can have access to their own meal areas or break facilities, and
- ensuring each worker has their own equipment or tools.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) may also be appropriate in some circumstances. Se also our information on PPE below.
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 to be in close contact, you must put control measures in place that minimise the time workers spend with each other or with other people in the workplace. You must also ensure workers 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 other people 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).
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.
See also our information on PPE.
My workers need to travel in a vehicle together for work purposes. How do they practice physical distancing?
Ideally, numbers should be limited to one person per vehicle trip where possible. If that is not possible, the numbers of employees in a vehicle per trip need to be minimised.
When minimising numbers, employers need to take into account:
- the size of the vehicle, the number of rows of seats, and how distances can be maximised in the space (for example, the driver with a passenger sitting in the back)
- the duration of the trip
- the additional control measures in this guidance
These measures may mean:
- more of your vehicles are on the road at one time
- more workers are driving and for longer periods than usual (if driving by themselves).
Because of this, you should review your procedures and policies for vehicle maintenance and driver safety to ensure they are effective and address all possible WHS risks that arise when workers drive for work purposes.
If workers are required to travel together for work purposes and the trip is longer than 15 minutes, air conditioning must be set to external airflow rather than to recirculation or windows should be opened for the duration of the trip.
You must also clean vehicles more frequently, no matter the length of the trip, but at least following each use by workers. See also our information on cleaning.
Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a lunch break or when travelling to and from work?
Yes. Workers must always comply with any state or territory public health directions or orders. This includes maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres between people.
IIn 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.
My workers are travelling and living together. How do I ensure they maintain physical distancing?
Workers may have to work closely together because of the nature of the task or for work health and safety reasons. They may also have to share accommodation and vehicles when performing tasks away from the primary workplace or in remote or rural locations.
It may not always be reasonable or practicable to require these workers to maintain a space of 1.5m from each other, particularly when sharing accommodation. To minimise the risks to these workers, it would be preferable to treat these workers as a unit or dedicated team.
When you treat workers as a unit or dedicated team, they can work, travel and stay together without having to practice physical distancing, although they must practice physical distancing when they can.
However, to limit the risk of exposure, they must be isolated as a unit as far as possible from other workers. So, for example, they must practice physical distancing when interacting with workers and others not in their unit.
The workers must also practice good hygiene to reduce the chance of spreading the virus amongst themselves and should not share facilities with other units. Distancing the unit from others in the workplace will reduce cross-contamination, should one of the workers in that unit display COVID-19 symptoms.
As with all workers, a worker in a unit must inform you if they are unwell. The symptoms of COVID-19 include shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, fatigue and coughing. See also our information on what to do if a worker in the unit is confirmed or is suspected of having COVID-19.
If one worker displays symptoms of COVID-19, you must isolate the entire unit. You will not necessarily need to isolate workers that are not part of the unit, assuming they have maintained the required physical distancing and practiced good hygiene. Of course, this will depend on how well you have been able to separate the unit from other workers in your workplace.
Working in units will potentially expose workers to a higher chance of exposure to COVID-19. This means you must also consider whether any of the workers in the unit may belong to the following groups, who have been identified as having a higher risk of serious illness if infected with the virus:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
- People 65 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
- People 70 years and older, and
- People with compromised immune systems
The Australian Government Department of Health advises that these workers should be supported to work from home where possible. If they cannot, a risk assessment should be undertaken to address the risks of exposure to COVID-19.
This may require re-assigning vulnerable employees to other roles outside of the unit where they don’t need to have contact with others. If the risk cannot be appropriately addressed, alternative arrangements such as leave should be considered.