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Safe Work Australia updates guidelines for return to work

With many people beginning to return to work in big office buildings, Safe Work Australia (SWA) has released new guidelines on the ‘COVIDSafe’ use of lifts.

The guideline was updated overnight to say: “there is no requirement to provide 4 square metres of space per person in lifts, however you must still ensure, as far as you reasonably can, that people maintain physical distancing in lifts and lift waiting areas”.

The regulation also says “users of lifts must maintain physical distancing, to the extent possible. Lifts must not be overcrowded and users should avoid touching other users”.

Property Council Chief Executive Ken Morrison welcomed the new guidelines as sensible and practical, and said they would give building owners, managers, and tenants the certainty they need to plan their return to the office in the coming weeks.

“It recognises that people spend only short periods of time in a lift each day, and much less than the 15-minute period which is the threshold for the COVIDSafe app handshake,” Mr Morrison said.

“The guidance rightly emphasises the need for measures to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19, and also highlights a number of complementary measures that will contribute to a safer workplace environment.”

These include the need to maintain working from home arrangements for some workers, stagger arrival times to workplaces to avoid travel peaks and using technology available to reprogram lifts for more efficient travel.

SWA also advises appropriate signage within lifts, regular cleaning of high touch points and good hygiene in addition to social distancing to minimise the risk of exposure.

“We have greatly appreciated the very constructive dialogue we have had with the Attorney-General and Safe Work Australia on these guidelines,” Mr Morrison said.

“At all times, we’ve been guided by the need to promote health and safety while also enabling people to get back to work in offices and support the re-opening of the Australian economy.”

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