While Australian Standards are certainly useful reference tools for businesses, their status under law can be quite deceiving.

Australian Standards are published documents that set out specifications and procedures designed to ensure projects, services and systems are reliable and consistently performed. For instance, they might cover the use of gas in dispensing beverages, specifications for manufacturing cots or reporting practices for small businesses. If you’ve got an issue, you can sleep at night knowing that there is a specific standard for you (with over 7000 Australian Standards the chances are quite high).

‘But are they binding?’, we hear you ask. Actually, they’re not. Australian Standards might be a great reference point for businesses but they are not legally binding. However, if an Australian Standard is incorporated into legislation by government (and they often are), then the Standard will become mandatory. For example, mandatory standards apply to car child seats and fire extinguishers.

Standards have other uses too. They can be and often are referred to in contracts to specify minimum standards that the parties need to achieve, and can be enforced if a party fails to meet them.

Standards are also incorporated into various Codes of Practice, particularly as part of workplace health and safety recommendations. Although these Codes may not be binding they are often referred to by inspectors in recommendations to improve WHS standards. Finally, if you apply a relevant set of Australian Standards in your business or venture, in the event of an incident it can be used to demonstrate that you did all things reasonably possible to manage your risk.

So while they’re mostly not mandatory, we think it’s a pretty good idea to be aware of what Australian Standards apply to your business operations because your short-term investment now could end up saving you some serious problems (and money) later.