With the announced change from COVID-19 Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April 2020, agencies as businesses and employers need to know what their health and safety obligations will be at Alert Level 3.

These obligations are, of course, on top of the ordinary obligations to keep everyone safe at work at all times.

Alert Level 3

At Alert Level 3, a business or operation (a “PCBU” - Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) will (unless it is an essential service) be allowed to operate from its business premises - as opposed to operating from home - if it cannot operate from home and can operate from its premises safely in public health and ordinary health and safety terms.

PCBUs must remember that they can only open their business premises to workers if work cannot be done from home.  Being inconvenient to work from home is not a reason to work from the office or business premises at Alert Level 3.

The basic rules are below:

  • No direct physical client contact is allowed. Any provision of goods or services must be contactless.  In the context of real estate agencies, this will include completing negotiations, agency agreements, and contracts remotely, limiting the number of people viewing a property at a time, and having only the agent touch any surfaces or doors in the property when showing people through the property.

  • Staff must be using all necessary personal protective equipment for the situation (gloves, masks, hand sanitisers or similar for hygiene).  Hand sanitisers should be used at any viewings of a property, for example.

  • Premises must be cleaned more often than normal, with suitable cleaning products so that the virus cannot be transferred by touching contaminated items or surfaces.  This includes licensees cleaning surfaces that they have touched as part of showing anyone through a property.

Documented Safety Plan

The measures referred to above must form part of a PCBU's COVID-19 documented safety plan. The PCBU must assess its ability to operate safety at Alert Level 3, including how it can operate safely and how it will protect both staff and customers.

The documented safety plan must be shared with all staff, and staff must be involved when assessing risks and identifying solutions.

The PCBU must consider how to manage any risks identified - including the risk of exposure to and transmission of the virus at work. The PCBU must address all the risks identified and take all practicable steps to eliminate or minimise those risks (using the normal criteria to assess the likely chance of occurrence, the likelihood of harm, the state of knowledge and the means available to prevent it, and the seriousness of harm that could result).

The PCBU also needs to consider how normal risks will change and/or how new risks may arise from things put in place to control COVID-19 risks.  In other words, the PCBU must understand the impact of changing work practices and how these new practices will keep everyone safe and well. These considerations apply to people, equipment, and practices such as physical distancing, personal protective gear, and hygiene.

Some Key Areas for Consideration

Personal Protective Equipment

Training on the use of personal protective equipment needs to be appropriate for the risks involved, for example the correct way to put on and take off face masks and correct hand washing techniques.

Shared Access Points

Businesses which share access points such as doorways, stairwells and lifts will need to coordinate with the other PCBUs, including the landlord, to make sure these areas are kept safe.  Things to consider include: How will common areas be dealt with? How will access buttons be sanitised? How will restrictions on numbers in lifts be implemented and enforced? How will staff be able to pass each other in stairwells etc. and still maintain physical distancing?

Physical Set Up of the Premises

PCBUs must consider the physical set up inside work premises, including:

  • Can shifts and breaks for meals be staggered to minimise contact?
  • Can work spaces be separated?
  • Can screens be erected to minimise contact?
  • How will deliveries be made?
  • How will goods be sanitised before dispatch?

There will be a myriad of risks PCBUs need to assess for their particular type of operation, and appropriate control processes to then be implemented.

Unwell staff

It will be especially important to keep anyone who is unwell away from the workplace.  

It may be possible to allow flexibility for some staff to continue working from home, for example if they are unwell.  If staff are working from home or anywhere out of the office the PCBU is still responsible for the health and safety of their offsite workplace, so the PCBU must assess the associated risks (such poor posture at makeshift work stations, trip hazards, heat build-up from equipment, taking regular breaks and exercise etc).


Client Meetings

Client meetings in person are still not allowed under Alert Level 3.  Customers/clients must not be allowed into office premises.



At Alert Level 3, travel for work within your region (or adjoining region) will be allowed, but only if that travel is necessary and all precautions are taken.


Accessing Homes on the Market

In a real estate context, PCBUs need to plan for how fundamental aspects of real estate operations can happen safely.  This includes establishing health and safety processes to manage open homes, property viewings, pre-settlement inspections, and key handover safely, in accordance with Government and industry guidance.  

Under Alert Level 3 open homes cannot take place in person, but they can happen remotely.  It is however possible to do private viewings and final pre-settlement inspections in person, as long as all physical distancing and public health and safety measures adhered to.

It is important to ensure that you meet your health and safety obligations.  If you have any questions relating to health and safety at Alert Level 3, please feel free to get in touch.