Codes of Practice

Codes of practice are practical guides to attaining the standard of work health and safety (WHS) required by WHS laws.

Codes of practice do not have the same legal force as the WHS Acts or regulations, although they are designed to be used in conjunction with these. In other words, a prosecution cannot be mounted simply on grounds of failing to comply with a code of practice.

Note that anyone with a duty of care should follow codes of practice unless they follow an alternative course of action that achieves the same or a better standard of WHS. However, failure to observe a code of practice can be used as evidence in any proceedings that the person or corporation contravened or failed to comply with an Act or its regulations.

Codes of practice are developed, usually with public consultation and with input from industry groups and interested parties, primarily by the state or territory government departments responsible for WHS regulation.

Each state and territory’s principal WHS (or OHS) Act sets out the legal status of codes of practice in that jurisdiction. In Victoria, codes of practice are known as ‘compliance codes’. A code of practice is not considered to be in effect unless it has been approved by the Minister responsible for WHS.

Model WHS codes of practice    

Twenty three model WHS codes of practice have been approved by Safe Work Australia and the Ministerial Council (as of May 2015). These have commenced in the harmonised jurisdictions (NSW, QLD, SA, Tas, ACT, NT and the Commonwealth):

  • Abrasive blasting
  • Confined spaces
  • Construction work
  • Demolition work
  • Excavation work
  • First aid in the workplace
  • Hazardous manual tasks
  • How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace
  • How to manage work health and safety risks
  • How to safely remove asbestos
  • Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals
  • Managing electrical risks at the workplace
  • Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work
  • Managing risks of hazardous chemicals
  • Managing risks of plant in the workplace
  • Managing the risk of falls at workplaces
  • Managing the work environment and facilities
  • Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemical
  • Preventing falls in housing construction
  • Safe design of structures
  • Spray painting and powder coating
  • Welding processes
  • Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination

Draft model codes of practice 

Nine draft model codes have been agreed by the majority of Safe Work Australia Members as national guidance material. Safe Work Australia has published nine packages of material for:

  • Workplace traffic management
  • Managing cash-in-transit security risks
  • Managing risks in forestry operations
  • Industrial lift trucks
  • Amusement devices
  • Safe design, manufacture, import and supply of plant
  • Working in the vicinity of overhead and underground electric lines
  • Formwork and falsework, and
  • Scaffolds and scaffolding work.

Additional codes of practice

Some jurisdictions have preserved codes of practice adopted under earlier legislation. These are listed on the websites of the WHS regulator in each state and territory.

[Last updated 25 May 2015]