In this article, we provide an update on the Model Codes of Practice which have been released by Safe Work Australia as part of the WHS harmonisation process.

To date, there are 23 Model Codes of Practice which have been approved by the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and the Commonwealth:

  • How to Safely Remove Asbestos
  • How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace
  • Abrasive Blasting
  • Confined Spaces
  • Construction Work
  • Work Health and Safety Consultation Cooperation and Coordination
  • Demolition Work
  • Managing Electrical Risks at the Workplace
  • Excavation Work
  • Managing the risk of Falls at Workplaces
  • Preventing Falls in Housing Construction
  • Managing the Work Environment and Facilities
  • First Aid in the Workplace
  • Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals
  • Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals
  • Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace
  • Hazardous Manual Tasks
  • Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work
  • Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace
  • How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks
  • Safe Design of Structures
  • Spray Painting and Powder Coating
  • Welding Processes

While Codes of Practice deal with particular issues and do not cover all hazards or risks which may arise, they are the benchmark that WHS duty holder must meet in order to discharge their duties under the WHS Act and Regulations. WHS duty holders are required to consider all risks associated with work, not only those for which regulations and Codes of Practice exist.

Under the various WHS Acts, approved Model Codes of Practice are admissible in court proceedings, although they are not legally “binding”. Courts may regard a Model Code of Practice as evidence of what is known about a hazard, risk or control and may rely on it in determining what is “reasonably practicable”.

There are also a number of Model Codes of Practice which have been approved by Safe Work Australia, but are awaiting approval by the states and territories to have effect:

  • Working in the vicinity of overhead and underground electric lines
  • Safe design, manufacture, import and supply of plant
  • Traffic management in workplaces
  • Managing cash-in-transit security risks
  • Amusement devices
  • Scaffolds and scaffolding work
  • Tree trimming and removal work - crane access method
  • Industrial lift trucks
  • Formwork and falsework
  • Managing risks of plant in rural workplaces
  • Cranes
  • Managing risks in forestry operation

The draft Code Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying has been revised by Safe Work Australia following a period of public consultation and was released for further public comment on 3 June 2013. Safe Work Australia has also developed guides to the model WHS Act and Regulations in order to assist compliance by duty holders. Unlike the Model Codes of Practice, guides are not admissible as evidence in court proceedings and have no force of law.

In February 2013, Safe Work Australia decided that advice on managing fatigue at work should be progressed as a “guide” rather than a Model Code of Practice. The draft guide on Managing the Risks of Fatigue at Work is awaiting further local consultation by members of Safe Work Australia. Safe Work Australia has a number of guides currently available including:

  • Guide to the Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 
  • Guidance on the Interpretation of Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants 
  • Guide for Preventing and Responding to Cyanide Poisoning in the Workplace
  • Controlling Risks Associated with Electroplating guide 
  • Guide to Managing Risks Associated with Foundry Work
  • Guidance of the Classification of Hazardous Chemicals under the WHS Regulations
  • Health Monitoring for Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals - Guide for persons conducting a business or undertaking
  • Health Monitoring for Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals - Guide for workers
  • Health Monitoring for Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals - Guide for medical practitioners
  • Hazardous Chemicals Requiring Health Monitoring
  • Major Hazards Facilities guides
  • Safe Handling and Use of Carbon Nanotubes
  • Guide for Managing Risks Involving Heritage Plant
  • Guide to the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations
  • Worker Representation and Participation Guide

The Model Codes of Practice and guides can be found on Safe Work Australia’s website, www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au.