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, customers 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 dry them completely, preferably with clean, single-use paper towels. 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.
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 when it is not possible to wash hands.
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 their hands and dry completely before and after smoking a cigarette
- wash their hands and dry completely before and after and training sessions and use hand sanitiser between touching equipment
- clean and disinfect shared equipment and plant after use
- wash body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day
- 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. Consider requesting workers such as those who administer first aid to undertake infection control training and train all workers about 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 hand washing 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
- inform workers of workplace hygiene standards that are expected when using common areas (cleaning up after yourself, placing rubbish in bins provided, avoiding putting items such as phones on meal surfaces, etc.)
- encourage contactless payment or sign-in where possible
- provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser in appropriate locations for patrons to use, such as entry and exit points and in areas where equipment is used often (e.g. weights area), as well as disinfectant wipes for members to use to wipe down touch points of exercise equipment before and after use
- allow sufficient time between group fitness classes and personal training sessions so all equipment can be properly cleaned after use, and
- if members are required to clean gym or fitness equipment after use, provide sufficient supplies of cleaning products and provide instruction and supervision to make sure that equipment is properly cleaned.
Member hygiene standards
- You should implement processes to ensure clients do not to enter the gym, fitness centre or group fitness class if they:
- are experiencing symptoms linked to COVID-19 such as fever, cough or shortness of breath or
- have been in close contact with someone who is confirmed as having COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms linked to COVID-19.
- To ensure clients do not attend the gym, fitness centre or group fitness class if they or a close contact are unwell, inform clients of these expectations when booking classes or through email and social media accounts.
- You should also display signs outside the entrance to the gym, fitness centre or group fitness class informing clients of your expectations and not to enter the workplace if they or a close contact are unwell.
- You should also inform clients of hygiene standards that are expected when they attend the gym, fitness or sports and recreational centre or group fitness class. This includes:
- washing and completely drying their hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser upon arrival and before and after using gym equipment
- where you normally require members to wipe down equipment after use, ask them to now use disinfectant wipes before and after use and ensure suitable products are readily available. Inform members not to use their towel to wipe down exercise equipment. You will also need to review and amend your routine workplace cleaning processes for equipment which should be in addition to cleaning undertaken by members. See also our information on cleaning
- using a clean towel each time they attend their session or class,
- washing gym clothes and towels after each session
- bringing additional clean towels to lay on equipment benches and seats (you will have to consider any safety risks that may arise from this)
- encouraging members to bring their own drink bottles and closing water fountains and bubblers. Remind members to ensure their drink bottle should not touch any part of the tap or the water cooler/dispenser should they wish to re-fill their water bottle.
- encouraging members to bring their own equipment where possible – e.g. yoga mats, boxing gloves, and
- not touching or sharing others’ personal items or equipment unless necessary.
See also our information on hygiene measures for early childhood education if your workplace provides child caring facilities. 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.
You must also review your cleaning processes for equipment and other high touch points.
You must ensure there are adequate and accessible facilities for both members and clients to achieve good hygiene and that they are in good working order, are clean and are otherwise safe.
- You should minimise use of change rooms and shower areas where possible by encouraging members to only use them if they need to. You should also check whether public health directions in your state or territory restrict the use of such facilities.
- Instead encourage members to enter the gym, fitness or sports and recreational centre or group fitness class already dressed in their workout gear where possible and shower at home.
- You must also consider whether there are an adequate number of hand washing and drying stations, in convenient locations, to sustain the increase in members 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.
- 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.
- If change room and other facilities remain open you must ensure facilities are properly stocked and where applicable, 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. If these toilets are shared with other tenancies, you may not be able to implement all of the control measures yourself but must work with others to ensure those measures are put in place.
- Ensure members practice good hygiene measures when using these facilities. You must also undertake additional cleaning and disinfecting measures.
You may need to provide additional washing facilities, change rooms and break facilities to workers. 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 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.