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WHS Codes of Practice and guidance material in NSW

In New South Wales, a Code of Practice is a practical guide to achieving the standard of health, safety and welfare as required by Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws for a particular area of work. Each Code of Practice is approved by the relevant minister. Guidance material, such as fact sheets, guides and safety alerts, provide more detailed information on the requirements of statutes, regulations, standards and codes of practice in relation to particular tasks and activities or in the operation of specific plant and equipment.

Compliance with the Codes of Practice and guidance material 

You are generally not absolutely required by law to comply with a Code or guidance material (unless WHS laws refer to compliance with a specific provision of the Code).

However, a Code of Practice should be followed unless there is an alternative course of action that achieves the same or better standards. Furthermore, if an accident was to occur in a workplace, compliance with a Code or guidance material (or failure to comply) will be taken into consideration in determining whether to prosecute and the penalty to be imposed. 

When should the Codes and guidance material be followed? 

A Code and guidance material should always be followed unless there is an alternative course of action which achieves the same or a better standard of health, safety and welfare in the workplace. 

What different Codes of Practice are there? 

As a minimum, you should obtain and know the following Codes if you work in the residential building industry: 

  • Model Code of Practice: Construction work – provides guidance to principal contractors and other persons conducting a business or undertaking who carry out construction work on how to meet the health and safety requirements under the WHS Act and Regulations relating to construction work. It includes guidance on amenities requirements, preparation of SWMS, safety management plans, high-risk construction work and designer duties. 
  • Preventing falls in housing construction: Code of Practice – provides practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to eliminate, or if that is not possible, minimise the risk of falls from height in housing construction. 
  • Model Code of Practice: Excavation work – provides practical guidance on preventing cave-in and collapse in all workplaces where excavation and associated earthworks are performed including bulk excavations more than 1.5 metres deep, trenches, shafts and tunnels. 
  • Model Code of Practice: Hazardous manual tasks  – provides practical guidance to persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to manage the risk of musculoskeletal disorders arising from hazardous manual tasks in the workplace. It applies to all types of work and all workplaces where manual tasks are carried out. 
  • Model Code of Practice: Demolition – provides practical guidance to persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to manage the health and safety risks associated with the demolition work. 
  • Model Code of Practice: Safe design of structures – provides practical guidance to persons conducting a business or undertaking who design structures that will be used, or could reasonably be expected to be used, as a workplace. This includes architects, building designers and engineers.
  • Model Code or Practice: How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace – provides practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking who have duties under the WHS Act and WHS Regulations to safely remove asbestos from all workplaces including structures, plant and equipment. 

What different guidance material is available? 

As a minimum, you should obtain the following guides, fact sheets and alerts if you work in the residential building industry: 

  • Erecting, altering and dismantling prefabricated steel modular scaffolding 
  • Masonry wall safety during construction work 
  • Safe Working At Heights 
  • Safety and Security Fencing for Construction Sites 
  • Housing Industry Site Safety Pack 

You can obtain copies of the Codes of Practice and guidance material by contacting SafeWork Australia or  SafeWork NSWWorkCover.

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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