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What are workplace codes of practice?

A code of practice is a practical guide to achieving the standards of health, safety and welfare required under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and the WHS Regulations.

These codes give guidance on:

  • How to achieve the standards required under the Act.
  • Effective ways to identify and manage risks. 

The Model Codes of Practice, developed by Safe Work Australia, form the basis of codes of practice in each state and territory, as well as the Commonwealth. Codes of practice should be used by businesses in conjunction with the WHS Act and the associated WHS Regulations.

Why do we have WHS codes of practice?

Codes of practice provide explicit guidance on how to comply with WHS standards required by the WHS Act. Some occupations and workplace environments are more hazardous than others. Codes of practice support employers and workers in their duty of care to ensure practical steps are taken to minimise risk. For example, there are WHS codes of practice for the safe removal of asbestos, labelling hazardous chemicals and working at heights.

Sometimes there may be a better way to achieve required WHS outcomes. In those instances, compliance with the approved code of practice is not mandatory, as long as any alternative methods achieve the same, or higher, standard of WHS outlined by the code of practice.

Codes of practice are admissible in court proceedings under the WHS Act and may be used as reference by workplace safety inspectors when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.

Links to WHS codes of practice

Both employers and workers may have responsibilities under a particular jurisdiction’s WHS code of practice. Each state and territory uses the Model Codes of Practice as a reference for its own code, but the approved versions differ slightly. Find the code that applies to your state or territory:

Need more information?

An A–Z listing of all Model Codes of Practice agreed by the Select Council on Workplace Relations (Ministerial Council) for implementation under the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety can be found at Safe Work Australia.