Managing COVID-19 risks: Hospitality industry
Information for employers operating cafes, restaurants, food delivery, takeaway and bar services on keeping employees and patrons safe during the pandemic.
This information is no longer current. There maybe a more recent version available.
Restrictions apply across Victoria
Depending on your industry your workplace may:
- be subject to restricted operations or industry specific obligations
- be subject to COVID-19 vaccination requirements
It is mandatory for every Victorian business with on-site operations to have a COVIDSafe Plan. COVIDSafe plans should be reviewed and updated regularly.
COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria may be updated at any time. You must stay up to date with changes for your industry.
How are my occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations impacted by the restrictions?
There is no change to your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) as a result of the Pandemic Orders issued by the Victorian Minister for Health.
Preparation of a COVIDSafe Plan forms part of the development of a safe system of work. However, having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with the Victorian Pandemic Orders does not necessarily mean you have complied with all of your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.
You must follow any Pandemic Orders that apply to how your business must operate, and ensure that you are meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.
Transmission of COVID-19
Researchers are still learning about COVID-19, its long-term effects and emerging variants.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that can result in mild to very severe illness and death.
The main way COVID-19 spreads is when a person with COVID-19 exhales droplets and/or aerosol particles containing the virus. This can happen when they breathe out, cough, sneeze, speak, shout or sing.
Exhaled droplets range in size. Large droplets settle out of the air faster than they evaporate. Small droplets remain suspended in the air for longer periods. Very fine droplets may contain the virus, and can stay suspended in the air for anywhere from minutes to hours. Small droplets and particles are often referred to as ‘aerosols’.
Transmission of COVID-19 can occur in a number of ways, and possibly in combination.
1. Airborne transmission
This occurs when a person inhales aerosols that may contain viral particles that are infectious.
While the risk of transmission is highest when close to an infectious person, air currents can disperse small droplets and particles over long distances. These may be inhaled by people who have not had face-to-face contact or been in the same space with the infectious person. Airborne transmission is more likely to occur in indoor or enclosed settings that are poorly ventilated, crowded, or both. In these kinds of settings, the virus may remain suspended in the air for longer and increase the risk of spread as people tend to spend longer periods in indoor settings.
2. Droplet transmission
Transmission occurs where exhaled droplets from a person with COVID-19 come into contact with another person's mucosal surfaces (nose, mouth or eyes). The risk of transmission is highest when close to the source, where the concentration of these droplets is greatest.
3. Contaminated surfaces transmission
People may also become infected by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth without cleaning their hands.
COVID-19 and the hospitality industry
Under the OHS Act, employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees, including independent contractors. This includes preventing risks to health, including psychological health, and safety associated with potential exposure to COVID-19.
Employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own and others health and safety in the workplace and cooperate with their employers about any action they take to comply with the OHS Act or Regulations.
Employers must identify hazards and, if necessary, assess the level of risk to the health of employees from exposure to COVID-19 at their workplace. This must be done in consultation with:
- health and safety representatives (HSRs), if any, and
- employees, so far as is reasonably practicable
Consider risks that are significant for the hospitality industry, including:
- employees operating in close proximity with patrons or each other
- contact with commonly touched surfaces, including tabletops, counters, handrails, doors, cash registers, touch screens, phones, keyboards, scanners and EFTPOS terminals
- sharing workplace amenities such as kitchens, lunch rooms, communal areas, change rooms, toilets, drink fountains and vending machines
- contact with delivery drivers and other contractors attending the workplace
- exchanging cash money with patrons
At risk employees
Some employees may be at greater risk of getting COVID-19 or becoming more seriously ill if infected. The Department of Health (DH) has the latest information on 'at risk' groups.
Where a risk to health or safety is identified at a workplace, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the risk. Where it isn't possible to eliminate the risk, it must be reduced, as far as is reasonably practicable.
The types of control measures required depends on the level of risk as well as the availability and suitability of controls for each workplace, including individual work areas.
Face masks in workplaces
Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health about face masks are in place across Victoria. For more information see the guidance Managing COVID-19 risks: Face masks in workplaces.
COVID-19 vaccinations in workplaces
COVID-19 vaccination is one control measure that can reduce the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces. This should be part of a suite of controls used to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces.
Consult with employees
Employers have a duty to consult with employees, independent contractors and any health and safety representatives (HSRs), so far as is reasonably practicable, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them. This includes consultation on identifying hazards or risks and decisions about how to control risks associated with COVID-19.
The consultation should be conducted in accordance with any agreed consultation procedures.
Employers should provide adequate training for employees to minimise risks to health and safety, such as training on the correct use of personal protective equipment if it is required, good hygiene practice and updated cleaning procedures.
Employers should implement an employee screening process to minimise the introduction of COVID-19 into the workplace. Employers should ask employees before they enter the workplace if they are currently subject to any Pandemic Order requirements (such as needing to isolate or quarantine), and instruct employees who have been in contact with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 to follow Department of Health (DH) procedures.
Ensure employees know what to do
An employer's duty to eliminate or reduce risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 so far as is reasonably practicable includes ensuring that:
- confirmed COVID-19 cases do not attend the workplace
- employees know what to do or who to notify if they feel unwell or suspect they've been infected, according to the information provided by DH
- employees who have been in contact with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 are instructed to follow DH procedures
- any unwell employee does not attend the workplace, including those who have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting their test result
The symptoms of COVID-19 are: fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose and loss or change in sense of smell or taste.
Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
If an employee develops any COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, they should:
- self-isolate immediately, get tested and if needed, seek advice from their doctor or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398.
- tell their employer as soon as possible, follow the procedures their workplace has in place to deal with symptomatic people, and update their employer if their situation changes, for example: if they receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis
In the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case or cases at the workplace, Pandemic Orders issued by the Victorian Minister for Health may also require employers to take specific response actions.
Record-keeping for contact tracing
Under Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health, workplaces may be required to keep records of attendance to assist with contact tracing.
Maintaining 1.5 metres distance between employees, customers and other visitors to the premises helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Under Pandemic Orders made by the Victorian Minister for Health, workplaces may be required to comply with particular density quotient rules.
In consultation with employees and independent contractors, employers should develop a plan to ensure physical distancing is maintained. This could include, where reasonably practical, the staggering of start times and breaks for employees and the appointing of one staff member per shift to ensure physical distancing rules are abided by staff and patrons.
The advice below may include activities that may not be permissible. Employers should check what activities are permissible on the DH website.
Manage patrons' movement
To maintain physical distancing:
- Restrict patron numbers within the premises in accordance with Pandemic Orders density quotients.
- Place physical barriers or use floor signage to maintain 1.5 metres physical distancing between staff and patrons.
- Create a separate area within the premises to service takeaway patrons and use floor markers to indicate where patrons should stand.
- Consider assigning a trained employee to manage queues, entries, exits and customer spacing during busier times.
- Use separate doors for customer entry and exit to avoid contact between people. If this is not possible, use markings on the ground to direct the flow of patrons.
- Place signs around customer ordering and waiting areas and create wall or floor markings to identify 1.5 metres distance.
- Consider table service to eliminate the requirement for patrons to queue to order food or beverages.
- Place easy to read menus and display them on the wall or windows outside the premises, at least 1.5 metres apart, so patrons can decide their orders before entering.
- Consider using physical barriers where possible, such as at the counter where a plexiglass barrier could be installed to separate patrons and service staff.
- Remove waiting area seating, and encourage patrons to wait outside, if safe to do so, for takeaway collection.
- If you are set-up for online/phone ordering and payment, take extra steps to promote this option to reduce face to face interaction at the premises. Provide accurate pick up times (as much as possible) and request patrons do not arrive prior to that time.
- Set up different areas for ordering and collection to minimise contact with surfaces.
- Reduce the number of tables and the seating capacity to ensure tables can be adequately spaced and allow for clear walkways for patrons and employees. If this is not possible, identify and label tables that cannot be used.
- Remove magazines and newspapers to reduce the risk of transmission and to ensure that patrons do not congregate in these areas.
- Restrict service to table-service only to reduce the movement of patrons and the number of surfaces touched. This includes:
- closing or restricting bar services where practical
- removing buffet style or 'serve yourself' style food services, and
- removing communal water stations
- Where possible, consider the use of electronic/app-based ordering systems to reduce interaction between patrons and employees.
- Where larger communal type tables are used, consider changing to smaller tables or implement measures to ensure each group of patrons are spaced at least 1.5 metres from other groups. Alternatively use markings to show that individuals are unable to sit down in certain spots.
- Consider using physical barriers where practical, for example using plexiglass barriers to separate communal tables into specified zones or booth style seating.
- Promote the use of reservation systems with staggered seating times to better manage the flow of patrons. Advise patrons to only arrive at their allocated reservation time.
- If walk-in services are offered, where patrons can not be immediately seated, implement a system to take the customer's details and advise them that they will be contacted once a table is ready. Advise them to either wait outside or elsewhere in the general area.
- Place floor makings outside the premises to indicate 1.5 metre distancing for patrons waiting outside.
- Use contactless and mobile payment to allow patrons to pay from their seat to minimise movement.
Where bar services are permitted, these services should be minimised to the extent possible, and queuing arrangements and floor marking implemented to ensure 1.5 metre distancing between patrons while waiting for service.
Employers may need to revise ways of working to ensure physical distancing is maintained. This should be done in consultation with the affected employees and care should be taken to ensure that the changes do not create other safety issues, such as risks to employees working in isolation.
- Modify processes behind the counter (including in the kitchen) to limit employees having to be in close contact. For example:
- assign employees to specific work stations to minimise the need to go into other spaces
- establish floor markers where employees can perform tasks, and
- implement processes so front of house staff can collect food without needing to go into food preparation areas, and require workers in different areas and larger premises to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction
- Identify small work areas such as cool rooms and determine how many persons can enter at one time and communicate this requirement.
- Stagger employees' shifts to reduce the number of workers in staff areas and schedule time between shifts where possible so that there is no overlap of employees arriving and leaving the workplace.
- Limit physical interactions between persons at the workplace for example, by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors.
- Modify processes behind the counter (including in the kitchen) to limit employees having to be in close contact. For example:
Employee gatherings, meetings and training
If face-to-face employee gatherings are essential, ensure:
- contact time is minimised as much as possible
- catering is not provided for the event or, where catering is provided, meals should be pre-packaged for individuals, disposable plates and cutlery used and there are no shared serving utensils or buffet style food provided
- the venue is adequately ventilated
- the venue enables employees to keep at least 1.5 metres apart if possible
- the number of attendees is restricted, or multiple sessions are held, to enable physical distancing to be observed
- designated seating is used to avoid employees standing and mingling
- hygiene and cleaning requirements are adhered to, including the display of relevant signage and floor markings
Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the workplace
- Non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed.
- Contact your delivery suppliers and understand what systems are in place for identifying if their employees are unwell and what actions are taken.
- If a contractor, delivery driver or visitor is showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 they should be immediately asked to leave the premises.
- Develop a plan for deliveries to minimise the interaction of delivery drivers with employees and patrons and communicate this to delivery suppliers, drivers and employees.
- Minimise the number of employees 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 employees 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 employees wherever possible.
- Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered.
- Ask delivery drivers and contractors to use electronic paperwork and digital signatures where possible. For example, see whether a confirmation email or a photo of the loaded or unloaded goods can be accepted as proof of delivery or collection. If a pen is required for signature, ask that the pen is sanitised before use, or use your own. Avoid handling shared paperwork.
Please refer to the DH website for the latest advice on good hygiene practice.
Employers should develop good hygiene practices for both employees and patrons, including:
- Develop infection control policies that outline measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as, training employees on how areas may need to be cleaned and disinfected in the event of any contamination.
- Train employees to wear gloves when cleaning and wash their hands correctly after cleaning.
- Train employees on correct hand-washing techniques, including, but not limited to washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a >70% alcohol-based hand sanitiser, and to dry hands thoroughly. Employers may position posters near handwashing facilities showing how to correctly wash and dry hands.
- Instruct employees to wash their hands before and after eating, after coughing or sneezing, and after changing tasks and touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
- Inform employees of workplace hygiene standards – for example, placing rubbish in bins provided, avoiding putting items, such as phones, on meal surfaces.
- Display information about the symptoms of COVID-19 and the need to get tested and stay home when unwell in highly visible locations throughout the venue.
- Inform patrons of workplace hygiene standards, including:
- washing their hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser upon arrival
- washing their hands, or using sanitiser, in restrooms
- not entering the premises if they feel unwell
- Where possible encourage contactless payment, invoicing and recording of contact details.
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitisers in appropriate locations for patrons and employees to use, such as entries and exits.
- Clean frequently touched areas and surfaces several times a day with a detergent or disinfectant solution or wipe, for example EFTPOS equipment, elevator buttons, handrails, tables, counter tops, door knobs, sinks and keyboards.
- Encourage employees to minimise the amount of personal property they bring to work and to clean with disinfectant any personal property they do bring to work, such as sunglasses, mobile phones and iPads.
- Record contact details for patrons, as per Victorian Pandemic Orders, in case there is an outbreak.
- Ensure adequate ventilation if the venue is indoors.
- Display large, easy to read menus on boards or screens around the dining/seating area. Where individual menus are required, use laminated menus that can be easily cleaned between each use or disposable menus.
- Clean down tables and chairs after each service - all hard surfaces should be cleaned with effective detergent, disinfecting solution or wipes.
- Use disposable napkins and table cloths where possible, if not, remove after each service and launder.
- Remove tableware after each service and replace with clean tableware - set cutlery and glassware immediately before or after seating patrons, rather than having communal areas for patrons to collect their own.
- Use disposable, single-serve sized condiments and water bottles where possible or wash items between each service if they cannot be replaced, for example, glass water bottles, condiments dispensers, etc.
- Present shared menu items on individual plates, rather than one sharing plate.
- Allocate a specific area for used dishes and cutlery and ensure this area is separate from food preparation and other areas.
- Refuse to accept BYO alcohol or containers for safety reasons.
- Do not offer cloakroom services.
- Ensure employees are trained to wash their hands after cleaning at the end of a service.
- Ensure adequate supply of soap and paper towels – do not provide reusable towels.
- Ensure regular cleaning of restrooms.
- Display large easy to read menus on boards or screens around the dining/seating area. Where individual menus are required, use disposable menus or laminated menus that can be easily cleaned between each use.
- Remove any self-serve serviettes, condiments and cutlery and only provide to patrons as requested.
- Remove seats from waiting areas.
Employers must put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of hygiene measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective, including:
- back of house, if fans are used to reduce heat, position them in a way so that air is not blown directly from one person to another
- ensuring there is a process to cover any exposed tableware, glasses, pots and pans
People in indoor environments, particularly in crowded or inadequately ventilated spaces, are at a higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. When someone infected with COVID-19 has been present, the virus may linger in poorly ventilated spaces or areas with stagnant air for a longer period of time.
Providing an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) to enclosed areas of a workplace dilutes the number of airborne virus particles and lowers transmission risk. Improving ventilation alone does not reduce the risk of transmission via droplets and contaminated surfaces. It needs to be considered as part of a suite of infection control measures.
Adequate ventilation can be achieved using natural or mechanical ventilation, or a combination of the two.
- Natural ventilation is fresh air coming in through open windows, doors or air vents.
- Mechanical ventilation means a method of forced or induced ventilation using mechanical air-handling systems that bring in fresh air from outside. It forms part of a building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
Note: Natural ventilation is dependent on variable local conditions (eg window opening size, weather conditions including wind speed and direction) and may not always be effective in quickly removing airborne virus particles.
Better ventilation can be achieved by:
- increasing the rate that air is supplied
- increasing the supply of fresh outdoor air
- reducing or eliminating recirculated air in HVAC systems
- improving filtration for air recirculated by HVAC systems if the ventilation rate is not compromised
- regular maintenance of the HVAC system, including changing filters
Guidance on HVAC systems is available in AS1668.2:2012 The use of ventilation and air-conditioning in buildings, Part 2: Mechanical ventilation in buildings. Further information on HVAC systems and COVID-19 is available in World Health Organization (WHO) guidance Roadmap to improve and ensure good indoor ventilation in the context of COVID-19 (who.int).
In areas where it is not possible to maintain adequate ventilation and there is a high risk of transmission, portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered air cleaners may be appropriate to be used to reduce the concentration of airborne virus particles and other aerosol contaminants. These units are not a substitute for ventilation. Employers should assess the risk and/or undertake a ventilation assessment to identify what ventilation strategies are appropriate for the space and whether an air cleaner is needed and consider operational placement and maintenance of these units.
Employers should work with the building's owner or manager to improve ventilation where possible. Engaging a suitably qualified person such as an occupational hygienist or a ventilation engineer to advise and assist should also be considered.
For more information about ventilation, see the following documents on the DH Infection prevention control (IPC) resources page:
- COVID-19: Ventilation principles and strategies to reduce aerosol transmission in community and workplace settings.
- Department of Health IPC Ventilation Policy.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission from air-circulating, wind-blowing devices and activities.
- Ventilation strategies to reduce COVID-19 infection, when used as per DH guidelines.
Employers have duties under the OHS Act, which include that they must, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
- provide adequate facilities for the welfare of employees and independent contractors
- provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees and independent contractors as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
- monitor the health of their employees
- monitor conditions at any workplace under the employer's management and control
- provide information concerning health and safety to employees, including (where appropriate) in languages other than English
- ensure that persons other than employees of the employer are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer
- consult with employees and HSRs, if any, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them
A person with management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.
Employees also have duties under the OHS Act, which includes that they must:
- take reasonable care for their health and safety
- take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by the employee's acts or omissions at a workplace
- co-operate with their employer with respect to any action taken by the employer to comply with a requirement imposed by or under the OHS Act
The OHS Act gives HSRs a role in raising and resolving any OHS issues with their employer, and powers to take issues further if necessary.
WorkSafe Advisory Service
WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.