To protect workers from coronavirus, a range of safety measures is needed. One of the most effective of these is physical distancing. Physical distancing (also referred to as social distancing) means keeping space between you and others to make it harder for coronavirus to spread.
Physical distancing is an effective COVID control measure and should be part of a COVID Safe plan, alongside other risk controls.
In some types of work physically distancing is not always practical, such as care work or work that requires more than one person for safety reasons (confined space, working at heights, etc.). In these circumstances, other safety control measures will need to be considered.
Below, are some frequently asked questions about physically distancing at work, but every workplace is different. Contact your union or the Australian Unions Support Centre if you have more questions about keeping safe at work.
How can I physically distance at work?
The current guidelines for physical distancing are to maintain 1.5 meters space between you and another person.
For indoor work, a limit of 1 person per 4 square metres is also recommended in some states and territories. In some states and territories, density limits may also apply. Check the advice of your relevant Health Department for more information.
Your employer must consult with workers when deciding how physical distancing measures will be put into place. Together you can negotiate practical ways to maintain physical distancing, such as:
- Rearranging workstations
- Creating small work teams and limiting mixing between teams
- Changing shifts and handovers to minimise contact between workers
- Changing the flow and direction of people to manage how they move around the workplace
- One person limits to vehicles
- Changing break times and locations
Any physical distancing measures should be used in combination with other controls. Download the COVID-Aware Workplace Kit for more advice on COVID risk control measures.
What if it’s not possible to physically distance at my work?
If physical distancing is not possible at your work, other safety measures must be introduced as part of a COVID risk control plan.
What safety measures are possible will depend on the type of work you do. Controls might include changes to the physical workplace, the way work is done, ventilation and what personal protective equipment is worn.
The COVID-Aware Workplace Kit includes detailed advice on a range of COVID risk control measures for the workplace, or contact your union for advice.
Australian Unions has created a useful kit to help manage the risks of COVID-19 – COVID-Aware Workplace Kit. But every workplace is different. Talk to your union about ways your employer should be supporting workers and managing risks at your work.
Funding for this factsheet was provided by:
- the Victorian Government as part of the uTech project; and
- the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Please note that the information given here is general information only and is not legal advice. For further assistance, it is recommended you speak to your union.