What is a code of practice?

Approved codes of practice

Safe Work Australia has developed model codes of practice that support work health and safety laws in consultation with state and territory governments.

A model code of practice becomes an approved code of practice with effect in Tasmania once it has been approved by the Minister responsible for work health and safety in Tasmania under section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.

Preserved codes of practice

As part of the transition from the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (repealed) to the new work health and safety regime under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012, four codes of practice from the former regime have been preserved. 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, published 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.

A code of practice provides detailed information on how you can achieve the standards required under the work health and safetylaws.

These do not replace these laws, but codes of practice can help you understand what you need to do to comply with specific regulations and to provide and safe and healthy workplace.

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 Work Health and Safety Act 2012 and the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012.

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.

Further, an inspector can refer to a code of practice when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.

Safe Work Australia has guidance material that can also help you achieve the standards under work health and safety laws.

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