COVID-19 safety rules and guidance for arts, screen and culture in NSW

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Arts and culture COVID-Safe

Stay up-to-date with information on COVID-19 in New South Wales via the NSW Health website.

For information on workplace safety, please visit SafeWork.

NSW Government COVID-19 portal.

COVID-19 Public Health Orders

On 1 July 2020, Public Health Orders in NSW were eased, allowing most businesses including arts, culture and entertainment venues in NSW to operate with the provision of 4 metres per person physical distancing protocols in place. (Under new rules effective from 16 October 2020, hospitality venues can have one person for every 2 square metres for outdoor areas).

NSW Health is the NSW Government body responsible for issuing and modifying Public Health Orders, and developing guidelines and COVID-19 Safety Plans to assist the reopening of industries in NSW.

As the public health conditions of COVID-19 are dynamic and subject to change at any time, Create NSW has made this online resource to be updated with new material as it is released.

All NSW arts, culture and entertainment organisations should follow NSW Health guidelines rather than guidelines produced in other parts of Australia.

COVID-19 Safety Plans

COVID-19 Safety Plans are comprehensive checklists designed by NSW Health and approved by the Chief Health Officer. The plans provide clear directions on how businesses and organisations should fulfil their obligations under Public Health Orders to minimise risk of transmission of COVID-19 on their premises.

Under current NSW Public Health Orders, most NSW arts and cultural organisations/business that are open to the public must complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan. Although there is no standard COVID-19 Safety Plan template for the arts and cultural sector, there are Industry Guidelines by NSW Health and SafeWork that can be used as basic guides:

Create NSW advises all organisations to look at current Public Health Orders alongside relevant industry guidelines from NSW Health when drafting a COVID-19 Safety Plan.

Create NSW cannot process or handle exemptions for the sector.

Areas covered in COVID-19 Safety Plans

The following areas must be addressed in your COVID-19 Safety Plan:

  • Wellbeing of Staff and Visitors/Audiences/Artists/Performers/Students etc
    including a protocol for staff who are unwell, and displaying conditions of entry/participation.
  • Physical Distancing – including management of venue capacity, the management of gatherings and protocols for artform-specific work, face mask requirements.
  • Hygiene and Cleaning – including ensuring bathroom services are regularly cleaned, and hand washing facilities are supplied/maintained.
  • Record Keeping – including a method of keeping information of attendees to your venue/workplace for 28 days.

Each artform your organisation presents or supports will have different conditions placed upon it for reopening, and different variables around the amount of people able to gather at one time. However, it is important to start developing flexible plans that can be modified as Public Health Orders are changed and types of work are authorised to recommence.

Public Health Orders updates

Stay up-to-date with the NSW Government’s Public Health Orders (PHO) and restrictions. Please refer to PHO information when developing your COVID-19 Safety Plan as it may contain clarifications relating to your particular venue, organisation or business.

Guidelines and checklists for preparing your COVID-19 Safety Plan will be prepared and updated by NSW Health shortly before or at the time that Public Health Orders restrictions evolve for different businesses, services and industries over the coming months.

Registering as a COVID Safe organisation or business

Once your COVID-19 Safety Plan is complete, you may register your organisation/business with the NSW Government as COVID Safe. For some businesses/organisations, it is mandatory to register as COVID-19 Safe. Other businesses and organisations are encouraged to register as COVID Safe to show their patrons and visitors that they are keeping up the highest standards to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

SafeWork Advice for professional performing arts organisations

This advice may be useful for organisations intending to stage productions that include singing, and close contact dancing, performing and acting.

Professional performance organisations are workplaces and are subject to work health and safety legislation. Any person conducting a business or undertaking productions has responsibilities under work health and safety legislation and is required to consult with others to manage the risk. Work, health and safety principles should be applied to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among performers, staff and audiences, for example, through increased physical distancing and improved ventilation in indoor settings.

The onus is on professional performance organisations, as employers, in consultation with their staff, to develop and implement appropriate and comprehensive COVID-19 plans, and ensure compliance with such plans.

Purpose-built venues and their associated permanent workplaces may have an opportunity to implement specific work practices and engineering controls that may not be viable for infrequent performances in a community setting.

These tailored controls may help augment the approach to meeting the necessary public health outcomes. Where tailored controls are employed, NSW Health recommends that organisations obtain specialist professional advice to verify the effectiveness of measures.

COVID-19 resources for the arts and cultural sector

Below are some links to resources and advice for safely managing specific venues and artforms during COVID-19. Please note, current NSW Public Health Orders must prevail over any contradictory/conflicting advice in these resources.

Cinemas, theatres, concert halls, drive-in cinemas, live performance venues

Dance studios

Group singing and choirs

Bands, orchestras, musical groups and wind/woodwind instrument playing

Outdoor music rehearsal and performance

Museums and galleries


Other venues and spaces

Create Connects webinars

Audience Outlook Monitor

The Audience Outlook Monitor dashboard is freely accessible and designed to help artists and cultural organisations of all kinds to make the best possible decisions about re-opening and understand how audiences feel about attending events again. The survey data has come from over 39,000 (23,730 from Phase 1 and 15,636 Phase 2) Australian respondents.

Do require help with the above information?

For further information, or to discuss your COVID-19 Safety Plan, please contact:
Bec Dean
Manager, Project Awake +61 2 8289 6447

Image: Newcastle Museum. Image courtesy the museum.
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Published: 16 June 2020