Due to the ongoing community transmission of COVID-19 in areas of Greater Sydney it is now mandatory for everyone who enters or works in an indoor premises to wear a fitted face mask. This includes in service stations and all shops (retail, supermarkets and shopping centres), indoor entertainment (including cinemas and theatres), aged care facilities, places of worship, hair, beauty and massage premises as well as all staff in hospitality venues and casinos and for patrons using gaming services.
Greater Sydney includes the following Local Government Areas:
- Bayside, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Burwood, Camden, Campbelltown, Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown, Central Coast, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Hawkesbury, Hornsby, Hunter’s Hill, Inner West, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Liverpool, Mosman, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Parramatta, Penrith, Randwick, Ryde, Strathfield, Sutherland Shire, Sydney, The Hills Shire, Waverley, Willoughby, Wollondilly, Wollongong and Woollahra.
The new rules also apply to anyone driving or travelling on public transport, taxis and ride share services. This includes waiting areas such as bus stops, train platforms or taxi ranks.
There are exemptions for those who for health or age reasons are unable to wear a mask. This includes children under 12 and those with a physical or mental health condition or disability that makes wearing a fitted face covering unsuitable. We ask businesses and the community to show compassion in these circumstances.
Masks can be removed when eating or drinking, communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, when requested for identity purposes or in workplaces where wearing a mask may put workers or others at risk.
Masks can also be remove for the proper provision of goods or services, for example, if having a facial or beard trim.
Fines of $200 may apply to individuals and up to $5,000 for some businesses who don’t comply with the new measures.
Wearing a mask helps to protect the community.
While the mandate for masks extends only to the Greater Sydney area, the strong advice remains for all persons in NSW to wear a mask if possible, particularly when unable to achieve social distancing.
Together with good hand hygiene, physical distancing and testing at the first sign of any symptom, mask wearing is an important element in the fight against COVID-19 and empowers keeping the economy open.
Business Practical Mask Q & A
Q: Do staff have to wear face masks? What if they are behind plexiglass (or simmilar)?
A: Yes the mandate is such that all persons (unless they have an exemption) must wear a face mask when in-store. While it is true that up until the implementation of the mandate businesses were free to conduct a risk assessment and respond appropriately, and that this resulted in many businesses concluding that as the staff member is behind a barrier a mask is not required, the mandate overrides this risk assessment approach. So even if there is plexiglass separating the staff member and the customer it is important that the business and staff clearly understand that it is a requirement for all persons to wear face masks.
Q: Do I have to provide my staff with face masks?
A: Yes, as a Personal Protective Item the business should make available to staff appropriate masks, though businesses should also be prepared to allow staff to wear their own masks in some situations and be ready to assess if the personal masks are appropriate as masks and appropriate from a business representation perspective.
Q: How many masks should I plan to provide to staff per shift, or day?
A: If handled correctly a single mask per standard shift should be sufficient, however the business should also have a portion of spare masks, as masks should be replaced in specific situations such as; particularly heavy breathing, over touching, soiling etc.
Q: What do I do if an employee has a medical condition that means they are exempt from wearing a mask?
A: Legislation requires workers to use or wear equipment as far as they are reasonably able but there are exemptions to the mandate and some staff may have medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask. Businesses should discuss this with the employee and explore other options wherever possible. It should be noted that as there are exemptions businesses should plan to address these for staff, either through other controls, reassignment, communication to customers etc, with the clear overriding motivator minimising the risk of infection to staff and the community a clear risk assessment approach should be taken.
Q: Do I have to train my staff about masks?
A: Yes. There is a requirement on businesses to communicate safety controls to staff. This would extend to the use of masks. Any training should address what staff have to do, how to wear a masks, how to dispose of a mask, what to do if a customer is not wearing a mask and how to handle mask related complaints.
Q: Do customers have to wear a mask?
A: Yes. The mandate outlines that all persons must wear a mask while in-store (unless they hold an exemption).
Q: Do I have to tell my customers that they have to wear a mask?
A: No, there is no requirement for the posting of signage, but it is strongly suggested that signage be placed to communicate expectations and precautions to customers. Businesses should clearly note that the business has a duty of care to the safety of staff, and customers not wearing their masks is a known risk that should be managed and controlled, and communication to customers is an appropriate control.
Q: What do I do if a customer enters my store without a mask?
A: It is not up to businesses or staff to enforce the mask wearing mandate, the enforcement of the mandate is done by the police. Staff should be made aware that there are exemptions to mask wearing and there are legitimate reasons for customers not to be wearing a mask. However, staff should also take care to note where unmasked customers moved through the store, and to respond with immediate cleaning of those areas if required.
Q: How do I handle a mask complaint?
A: Mask complaints and altercations are thankfully rare. Like all potential conflict situations businesses should instruct staff to politely request compliance, and if the matter escalates to ensure that the staff are safe and that the police are engaged if the staff safety is threatened. The business has the right to refuse entry to any patron and to request the removal of any patron. Polite requests, clear communication of expectations and next steps and, if required, escalation to the police.