“The updated guidelines are a step in the right direction,” Mr George said. “They will assist in moving more volumes of people around our buildings than the previous position and that’s a good thing.”
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 of Australia chief executive Ken Morrison said the rule change was more reasonable.
“The new guidelines on lift usage are sensible and practical, and give our building owners, managers and their tenants the certainty they need to plan their return to the office in coming weeks,” he said.
“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.
“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 included the need to maintain working from home arrangements for some and staggered arrival times to avoid peak travel times. Regular cleaning of high touch points and social distancing
“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.
Dexus surveyed 700 tenants less than two weeks ago and found just under a quarter of their workforces would return by the end of May. Up to 43 per cent were expected back by June, 50 per cent by July and 71 per cent by August.
A spokeswoman for Safe Work Australia said it was continually updating its COVID-19 guidance “as knowledge about the virus evolves and health risks are better able to be assessed”.
“Physical distancing means keeping at least 1.5 metres from others where possible. This message is consistently reinforced throughout our COVID-19 materials including on the webpage for office work. This message has not changed,” the spokeswoman said.
Anna Patty is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald with a focus on higher education. She is a former Workplace Editor, Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter.