Managing physical distancing in lifts through COVID-19

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 11 June, 2020 - 09:15
Industry news
National News

Safe Work Australia has removed the 4m² density rule in lifts in recent guidance material, however, PCBUs must still ensure, as far as they reasonably can, that people continue to practice physical distancing.

Safe Work Australia’s COVID-19 physical distancing information and guidance, which all State and Territory WHS regulators, unions and industry groups contribute towards developing, noted that it is still prudent to implement other controls, such as regular personal hygiene and handwashing, regular cleaning of high touch point areas and other controls to reduce or change the frequency of lift usage.

State regulators acknowledge the updated guidance, with SafeWork SA recognising that physically distancing in lifts in not always practicable.

“Therefore, we will not be taking an active compliance approach to enforcing work health & safety laws for 1.5m distancing or 4m² density rule within lifts unless excessive numbers of people are contained within them,” the regulator said in a recent statement.

“We consider it reasonable that people can travel in a lift to a workplace and be within 1.5m of each other; however, there should be sufficient room so as not to physically touch another person and for the ease of egress of persons at different floor levels.”

This will result in the lift maximum capacities not being used.

However, SafeWork SA said workers and health and safety representatives must be consulted in the development of protocols for using lifts and workers have the right to not travel in a lift if they feel unsafe to do so.

“We ask that businesses and workers remain vigilant to the SA Health guidelines and, where practicable, remain at 1.5m physical distancing at all other times,” the regulator said.