A code of practice provides detailed information on how you can achieve the standards required under the work health and safety (WHS) laws.
These do not replace the WHS laws, but codes of practice can be used to help make understanding what you have to do a little easier.
An inspector can refer to a code of practice when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.
Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, codes of practice are admissible in court proceedings.
Courts may regard a code of practice as evidence of what is known about a hazard, risk or control, and rely on it to determine what is ‘reasonably practicable’ in the circumstances to which the code relates.
It is recognised that equivalent or better ways of achieving the required work health and safety outcomes may be possible. For that reason compliance with codes of practice is not mandatory providing that any other method used provides an equivalent or higher standard of work health and safety than suggested by the code of practice.
As well as codes of practice, Safe Work Australia has guidance material that can also help you achieve the standards under WHS laws.
Codes of practice are practical guides to achieving the standards of health, safety and welfare required under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and the WHS Regulations in a jurisdiction.
To have legal effect in a jurisdiction a model Code of Practice must be approved as a code of practice in that jurisdiction. To determine if a model Code of Practice has been approved in a particular jurisdiction, you can check with the relevant work health and safety regulator.
An approved code of practice applies to anyone who has a duty of care in the circumstances described in the code. In most cases, following an approved code of practice would achieve compliance with the health and safety duties in the WHS Act, in relation to the subject matter of the code. Like regulations, codes of practice deal with particular issues and do not cover all hazards or risks which may arise. The health and safety duties require duty holders to consider all risks associated with work, not only those for which regulations and codes of practice exist.
Under a WHS Act in a jurisdiction, approved codes of practice are admissible in court proceedings. Courts may regard an approved code of practice as evidence of what is known about a hazard, risk or control and may rely on the code in determining what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances to which the code relates.