Model Codes of Practice
Model Codes of Practice provide practical guidance on how to comply with the work health and safety (WHS) legal requirements for hazard types. Victoria is the only state to not be part of this harmonisation or standardisation and have their own sperate WHS Legislation and Codes of Practice. As the remaining Federal, States and Territories regulators have adopted these Codes of Practice working across the borders has become far simpler to manage with common rules and interpretations.
Note Work Health and Safety or WHS is the term referenced through this information. As Victoria is the only state to use the term Occupational Health and Safety or OHS.
The following information presents the structure of the Model codes of practice, how codes of practice differ from other guidance documents and the codes of practices in force across each jurisdiction. Understanding that the information presented in here applies only to the Model WHS legislation.
Other codes of practice may be mandatory under other legislation across Australia.
For these Model Codes to be used as evidence they must first be approved by the regulator and published. Usually there is a specific legal document the Regulator publishes that lists the Current, Draft and repealed Codes of Practice. With the specific dates of currency. There are also reviews completed on the Codes of Practice to ensure that they are keeping up with the benchmarking (continual improvement) requirements.
SafeWork Australia and the role in Codes of Practice Development
SafeWork Australia plays an important part in this process as they are the repository for all the Model WHS legislation that include the Model Codes of Practice. They do not have any legal powers but assist with the harmonisation of the legislation ensuring consistency across Australia.
When the initial Health and Safety Legislation came to Australia it contained the Who had the duties (Act); and where these duties laid (Regulation), but not ‘what to do’. Some of the regulators began to make Compliance Standards to assist businesses comply with the WHS Legislation. There was a general duplication of efforts across the regions developing these Codes of Practice for businesses to use.
The Current Model Codes of Practice have improved greatly being able to list the specific sections of the Act and the Regulation as part of the information so that a reader can refer back to the legislation if required to ensure that they understand the specifics of the legislation.
Queensland and the Codes of Practice
Apart from Queensland the Codes of Practice where from 1 July 2018, duty holders are now required to comply with either an approved code of practice under the WHS Act or follow another method. This may be a technical or industry standard as long as it provides an equivalent or higher standard of work health and safety to the standard required in the code.
Where the code is intended to be read by a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) and provide practical guidance on how to manage health and safety risks associated with specific work carried out in a workplace. In those jurisdictions the COP is regarded as a useful reference for other persons interested in the duties under the WHS Act and WHS Regulations.
The development of Model Codes of Practice for businesses to use across Australia is part of the bigger picture related to compliance with WHS Legislation.
The practical and specific guidance provided in these Codes, gives businesses the knowledge to develop and implement processes to ensure the safety of workers and others. Harmonisation of the WHS Legislation has simplified the regulatory landscape for most states and territories. Businesses operating in and out of Victoria must be aware of the unique WHS legislation in place to ensure compliance. Regardless of the jurisdiction, these codes are a vital piece of the process to foster a safe and healthy work environment in Australia.
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