What is a code of practice?

Approved codes of practice

Model codes of practice

Model codes of practice have been developed by Safe Work Australia, in consultation with state and territory governments, unions and employer organisations, for adoption nationally by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments.

In Tasmania, a model code of practice becomes an approved code of practice once it has been approved by the Minister for Workplace Relations under section 274 of the Act.

Preserved codes of practice

On 1 January 2013 Tasmania moved to a new work health and safety regime with the commencement of the Work Health and Safety Act and Work Health and Safety Regulations.

The new Act enabled the Minister for Workplace Relations to approve codes of practice developed under a specific consultation process. However, as part of the transition process four codes of practice have been preserved from the old regime. They are the:

  1. Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Reinforced Plastics, published by WorkSafe Tasmania
  2. Code of Practice for Risk Management of Agricultural Shows and Carnivals, published by WorkSafe Tasmania
  3. Forest Safety Code (Tasmania) 2007, produced by the Safety Standards Committee, Tasmanian Forest Industries Training Board Inc
  4. Code of Practice for the Tasmanian Abalone Industry, developed by the Tasmanian Abalone Council Ltd

By virtue of section 15 of the Work Health and Safety (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Act 2012 these codes are taken to be approved codes of practice under the new Act.

Who they apply to 

A 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 Act.

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.

The Codes, dependent on the subject matter, offer guidance and may include information on

  • the scope and application of the code
  • health and safety duties in relation to the code
  • managing associated risks
  • how to consult workers
  • consulting, co-operating and co-ordinating activities with other duty holders.

Many of the Codes include checklists and risk assessment sheets.

Are they legally binding

Codes of practice are admissible in court proceedings under the Act and Regulations.

Courts may regard a 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.

Compliance with the Act and Regulations may be achieved by following another method, such as a technical or an industry standard, if it provides an equivalent or higher standard of work health and safety than the code.

An inspector may refer to an approved code of practice when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.

How to use a code

The Codes are written as a practical guide on different areas or subjects of work health and safety.

  • When the word 'should' is used it is to indicate a recommended course of action.
  • When the word 'may' is used it is to indicate an optional course of action.

Codes also include various references to provisions of the Act and Regulations which set out the legal requirements. These references are not exhaustive.

The words 'must', 'requires' or 'mandatory' indicate that a legal requirement exists and must be complied with.

Codes of Practice