Case Study – Lifts
ACME Financial (ACME) works is an employer of around 100 workers. They operate from a single level of an office building with three lifts servicing a total of 10 floors and around 1,000 workers. A number of different employers occupy leased space on other floors within the office complex.
As an employer with duties to workers under WHS laws ACME implements a range of measures to reduce exposure to COVID-19, including physical distancing.
Following consultation with workers and their representatives, ACME decide to allow 25% of their workers to work from home and expand the range of start and finish times for the other workers coming into the office. Some workers volunteer to start early and finish early (7:30am to 3:30pm) whilst other workers have volunteered to start and finish later (9:30am-5:30pm).
This significantly reduces the flow of workers entering and leaving the office building at peak periods.
ACME also consults and works cooperatively with other WHS duty holders, including the building manager and other employers, to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the building:
- The building manager calculates recommended passenger limits for each lift to ensure that overcrowding does not occur and that lift users are able to maintain appropriate physical distancing and cough and sneeze etiquette while using the lift. Signage displaying these limits are displayed in and outside the lift.
- The building owner also establishes an email forum so that employers on each floor can consult each other and share strategies to keep workers and visitors safe when riding in lifts, and to pinpoint times of peak demand.
- The building manager puts in place a number of measures for the use of the building’s lifts. These include establishing a queuing system in the lift waiting area with floor markings, as well as placing signage around the waiting area to remind workers to physically distance and practice good hygiene. There is also increased cleaning of lifts, including touch touchpoints such as lift buttons, and alcohol-based sanitiser is readily available in lift waiting areas for workers to use when arriving and leaving.
Following consultation with the building owner and other tenants, it becomes clear that there will still be a peak period of demand over the hour 12:30-1:30pm when many workers leave the building to purchase lunch. The group agrees it is not reasonably practicable to direct workers when they may purchase their lunch and that lift capacity may temporarily increase at this time.
ACME and other tenants undertake to consult with workers and visitors, and to emphasise the importance of not entering a lift already at capacity. Each tenant also supplies clean tissues, hand sanitiser and signage about cough etiquette near the lifts on their floor to ensure the best hygiene and awareness possible.
The building manager also undertakes to consult with the two cafés on site to investigate whether they would consider deliveries of food items to address some of the demand over the lunchtime peak period.
Below are measures to ensure physical distancing is achieved in workplaces.
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 interactions and work tasks
- 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.
- where the nature of work means you are not able to comply with these requirements, you need to implement other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- You can also limit the number of workers in your workplace by:
- facilitating working from home, where you can
- reducing the number of tasks to be completed each day, where possible
- postponing non-essential work, and
- splitting workers’ shifts to reduce the number of workers onsite at any given time. Schedule time between shifts so that there is no overlap of staff arriving at and leaving the workplace or have different entrances and exits to avoid interaction.
- Direct workers to keep 1.5 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing:
- implement the density requirements specified in your jurisdiction (for example, 4 square metres of space per person)
- put signs around the workplace and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to themselves and each other of physical distancing requirements
- limit physical interactions between workers, workers and clients, and workers and other persons at the site – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors, and
- require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction.
- Where it is practical and safe to do so, review tasks and processes that usually require close interaction and identify ways to modify these to increase physical distancing between workers. Where not possible, reduce the amount of time workers spend in close contact. See below for further information where workers are performing tasks in close contact including vehicle use.
Layout of the workplace
- You may need to redesign the layout of the workplace and your workflows to enable workers to keep at least 1.5 metres apart to continue performing their duties. This can be achieved by, where possible:
- restricting workers and others to certain pathways or areas, and
- spreading out furniture or plant to increase distancing.
- Consider floor and/or wall markings and signage to identify 1.5 metres distancing requirements.
If changing the physical layout of the workplace, your layout must allow for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety.
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.
- Reduce the number of workers utilising common areas at a given time – e.g by staggering meal breaks and start times.
- Spread out furniture in common areas. If changing the physical layout of the workplace, you must ensure the layout allows for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Place signage about physical distancing around the workplace. Our website has links to a range of posters and resources to help remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread. These posters can be placed around the workplace and in client-facing work environments (e.g. workplace entrances). Consideration needs to be given to how to communicate with workers and others for who English is not their first language.
- Consider providing separate amenities, such as kitchens, bathrooms, for workers and others in the workplace – for example separate bathroom facilities for workers and visitors/clients.
Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the workplace
- Non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed.
- Minimise the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible.
- Delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace, to provide maintenance or repair services or perform other essential activities, should be given clear instructions of your requirements while they are on site.
- Ensure handwashing facilities, or if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available for workers after physically handling deliveries.
- Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods such as mobile phones to communicate with your workers wherever possible.
- Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered.
- Use, and ask delivery drivers and contractors to use, electronic 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.
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
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. For further information on PPE, go to the Personal protective equipment page.
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. For more information, go to Cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a lunch break or when travelling to and from work?
Yes. Workers must always comply with any State or Territory public health directions or orders. This includes maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres between people.
In some States and Territories there 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.
Do I have to maintain physical distancing if I’m visiting a client’s home?
Yes. The model Work Health and Safety laws apply even when the workplace is a private home or dwelling. The client’s home is a workplace when you or your worker is there to perform work
You or your worker should talk to the client to ensure they understand the risks of COVID-19 and about the control measures you must implement – including physical distancing - to minimise the risk of exposing them and your worker to the virus.
For more information on the type of control measures to consider when assessing the risks associated with COVID-19 in someone’s house for work, see In-home services.