Retail work: Minimising the risk of exposure to COVID-19

The Western Australian occupational safety and health laws require employers to take care of the safety and health of their workers and others at the workplace.

This includes:

  • providing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment; and
  • providing adequate facilities for staff to carry out their work.

Employers must identify risks at the workplace, and where possible eliminate or minimise those risks. 

Managing the risks of exposure to the COVID-19 virus 

Physical distancing 

One of the most effective ways to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to limit physical proximity between workers and others. To encourage physical distancing – keeping everyone at the workplace at least 1.5 metres physically apart – ​you can do the following: 

  • calculate the area of your retail floor space and set an upper limit on the number of customers or others who may be inside your premises at any one time in order to keep the minimum 1.5 metres apart as far as possible (don’t forget to count your workers)
    • For busy retail premises you should nominate a worker trained and qualified in crowd control (e.g. a security guard) to monitor and to appropriately deal with customers who may engage in unreasonable behaviour in response to these measures. 
  • create floor markings that provide minimum guide distances between customers queuing for service and use physical barriers where possible.
  • separate customers and workers at the checkout. For example, use plexiglass screens, or if eftpos facilities are wireless, place the terminal at the end of the counter to maximise the distance between worker and customer.    
  • use separate doors for entry and exit, if practicable, to avoid contact between people
  • if you are set-up for online trade, take extra steps to promote this offering over face to face service.
  • facilitate working from home arrangements for staff where possible (e.g. book keeper).
  • rotate tasks to ensure no one worker has all the contact with customers.
  • where practicable, ensure staff or breakrooms allow for physical distancing. If physical distancing is not practicable consider alternative arrangement such as staggered lunch breaks or alternative facilities.
  • request contactless payment if possible, over cash.
  • place signage about physical distancing around your premises where you can.

If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks (e.g. because they impact communication), you need to manage those risks too.

Health checks and quarantine

If you have visited an exposure site during the relevant times, you are required to follow the corresponding health advice issued for that location, unless directly advised otherwise by the Department of Health. You are also required to notify WA Police by phoning 13 COVID (13 26843). 

Monitor your workers for key symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever.

Direct all workers (whether they are at the workplace or not) to report to you if:

  • they are experiencing any symptoms
  • they have been, or have potentially been, exposed to a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is suspected to have COVID-19 (even if the person who is suspected to have COVID-19 has not yet been tested), or
  • they have undertaken, or are planning to undertake, any travel.
  • encourage workers to report if they observe another worker is displaying any symptoms.
  • prohibit workers working if they are displaying symptoms (other than work at home, where this is available and the person is fit to do so).

Prohibit workers who have contracted COVID-19 from returning to the workplace until they provide evidence they are clear of the virus.


Environmental cleaning

The amount of time the COVID-19 virus survives on inanimate objects and surfaces will vary. Environmental cleaning is one way to remove the virus that causes COVID-19. Employers should ensure:

  • they provide surface wipes to clean counters, and equipment such as till, phones, keyboards and eftpos facilities
  • worker’s personal items used in the workplace such glasses and phones are cleaned and disinfected (e.g. using isopropyl alcohol wipes) 
  • that frequently touched surfaces such as doors, handrails, windows and products are cleaned and disinfected frequently using appropriate detergent and disinfectant solutions
  • that trollies and hand baskets are wiped clean with surface wipes after each use
  • consider limiting or reducing recirculated air-conditioning in common areas.
  • consider reducing the number of touch points for workers. For example, leaving access doors open, where appropriate. 

To minimise the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, people cleaning and disinfecting should wear gloves and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after wearing gloves.

The workplace should provide closed bins for workers to hygienically dispose of waste and rubbish such as used tissues, immediately after use. Alcohol-based hand sanitiser should be available for workers to use after they dispose of their waste.

Customers should be requested to only touch items they are interested in purchasing. If using reusable bags, customers should be required to: 

  • clean and disinfect their bags before re-use (e.g disinfect using a bleach-based solution or a high alcohol content disinfectant). 
  • handle and pack their own bags so that workers do not touch the bags.

Customers should have the option of purchasing bags if they have not followed the above measures. 

Workers should also have access to alcohol-based hand sanitiser to use between serving each customer. 

See the Department of Health information sheet on environmental cleaning and disinfection-principles for COVID-19 for further information. 

Worker hygiene

Workers should be required to practise good hygiene, including: 

  • covering coughs and sneezes with an elbow or a tissue
  • immediately disposing of tissues properly
  • washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and shared equipment after use
  • washing body hair and clothes thoroughly every day
  • staying more than 1.5 metres away from others, and
  • reporting and staying home if experiencing any symptoms. 

In addition, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, workers should also:

  • avoid touching their face
  • avoid handshakes or any other close physical contact and
  • put cigarette butts in the bin. 

Washroom facilities for workers should have adequate supplies for good hygiene such as adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper. These must be kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order.

Supplies of hand sanitiser should be provided around the office space, where available.

Workers should be informed about the risk of exposure and good hygiene through increased signage and information. The Australian Government Department of Health has a range of posters and other resources aimed at educating the public about COVID-19. These posters can be placed in client-facing work environments. 

Employers, workers, customers and others

General advice for workers, customers and others

  • Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose with unwashed (or gloved) hands.
  • Clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds using soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or a flexed elbow. Put tissues in the bin.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
  • Physical distancing – maintain at least a 1.5 metre distance to others (two arms’ length).
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath (call your doctor or healthdirect on 1800 022 222). 

Keeping workers and customers safe from workplace violence

Work-related violence can be any incident where a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. 

Employers should already have measures in place to ensure the safety of their workers and customers from workplace violence. However, you should review these procedures to consider what measures may need to be introduced or adjusted to minimise the risk of workplace violence that may arise specifically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional measures may include:

  • increasing security measures in aisles where in-demand goods are located. This may include the placement of a security guard in the aisle to discourage unreasonable behaviour;
  • placing purchase limits on the sale of in-demand goods or taking them off the shelves and requiring customers to ask for them specifically; and
  • placing signs around the workplace to remind customers about appropriate behaviour.

Keep workers informed

You should provide all workers information about the risks of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Where required, workers should be trained in infection control. 

The Australian Government Department of Health has a range of posters and other resources aimed at educating the public about COVID-19. 

Consultation and communicating with workers

You must consult with your workers on safety and health matters relating to COVID-19. Allow workers to express views before you make any decisions. 

Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work. Involving them will help build commitment to this process and any changes.

The guidance note: ‘Formal consultative processes in the workplace’ provides more information about your duties to consult.

You need to communicate clearly with workers about risk control measures. Provide clear direction and guidance about what is expected of workers. 

Workers should know: 

  • when to stay away from the workplace 
  • what action to take if they become unwell
  • what symptoms to be concerned about. 

Remind workers they have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others.

Provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns, and access to support services, including employee assistance programs.

What else can I do?

  • Keep your knowledge of the COVID-19 situation up-to-date. Follow advice from authoritative sources such as the Australian Government Department of Health and check daily for any updates to safety advice.
  • Understand your business and its   occupational safety and health hazards and risks. It may not be possible because of the work you do to facilitate all workers to work from home, but there are many steps you can take to minimise the risks in a retail environment.
  • Make sure your premises are properly resourced to manage occupational safety and health risks during the COVID-19 outbreak, and check that the resources are being used.
  • Review your policies, procedures and reporting process to ensure they remain current for any incidents, hazards and other occupational safety and health issues that arise during this time. Update these materials as necessary.
  • Ensure that these are communicated clearly and processes are being followed.
  • Consult with workers and provide a means for them to raise any concerns about the steps you are taking to manage the risks.

Further information 

Support resources

Support services


Guide / handbook
Last updated 09 Feb 2022

Share this page:

Last modified: