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21 Feb 12
NSW Codes of Practice - is your workplace using the right ones?

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To coincide with the commencement of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (WHS Act) on 1 January 2012, the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales released 11 new Codes of Practice. Workplace health and safety specialist, Partner, Jeremy Kennedy summarises which codes have been released, which are no longer applicable in New South Wales, and which codes are expected to be released later this year.

With the commencement of the WHS Act and Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (NSW) (WHS Regs) in New South Wales the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales (WorkCover) released 11 new Codes of Practice on 1 January 2012. The significance of this for Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) is that the courts will use the new Codes of Practice as evidence of the knowledge of risks and reasonable steps that could have been taken by the duty holders.

It is essential that PCBUs have a thorough understanding of the codes that are applicable in New South Wales. While most of the provisions in the WHS Regs and WHS Act do not specifically state that the Codes of Practice must be complied with, under the WHS Act the Codes of Practice are admissible in court proceedings as evidence of knowledge of the duty holder and to establish what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.

As well as providing steps on how PCBUs can manage risks in the workplace, the codes also provide useful interpretations of concepts and terms under the WHS Act and WHS Regs. The Codes of Practice are intended to be used by all duty holders in the workplace, including workers, to help them understand and manage specific risks.

Not all of the Codes of Practice applicable in New South Wales, have been finalised, however the following 11 Codes of Practice (Stage 1) were released and became operational in New South Wales on 1 January 2012:

  • Confined spaces
  • Hazardous manual tasks
  • How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace
  • How to manage work health and safety risks
  • Managing the risk of falls at workplaces
  • How to safely remove asbestos
  • Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals
  • Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work
  • Managing the work environment and facilities
  • Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals, and
  • Work health and safety consultation, coordination and cooperation.

As well as knowing which Codes of Practice are applicable, it is important for PCBUs to be aware of which codes no longer apply.

Clause 66 of Schedule 18B of the WHS Regs revokes a number of Codes of Practice that were in force under the OHS Act, including:

  • Storage and handling of dangerous goods
  • Facade retention
  • Noise management and protection of hearing at work
  • Labelling of workplace substances
  • Control of workplace hazardous substances
  • Electrical practices for construction work
  • Mono-strand post-tensioning of concrete buildings
  • OHS consultation—effective decision making and how to establish workplace OHS consultation arrangements
  • Workplace amenities
  • Risk assessment
  • Low voltage electrical work, and
  • Preparation of material safety data sheets.

PCBUs should make sure that they are referring to the new Codes of Practice developed under the WHS Act and not the old OHS Act Codes of Practice. This is particularly relevant where a new code has replaced an old code on the same topic, such as noise management.

WorkCover has stated that there are a number of Codes of Practice that are still being developed by Safe Work Australia. The following Codes of Practice are expected to be released in the first part of 2012:

  • Safe design of buildings and structures
  • Excavation work
  • Demolition work
  • Spray painting and powder coating
  • Abrasive blasting
  • Welding and allied processes
  • Safe access in tree trimming and arboriculture
  • Preventing and managing fatigue in the workplace, and
  • Preventing and responding to workplace bullying.

WorkCover has also stated that the following six risk-based Codes of Practice will be provided as guidance until approved in 2012:

  • First aid in the workplace
  • Managing risks in construction work
  • How to prevent falls in housing construction
  • Managing electrical risks at the workplace
  • How to manage risks of hazardous chemicals, and
  • How to manage the risks of plant in the workplace.

More Codes of Practice are set to be released for public comment in early 2012 including codes on specific plant items, specific construction work, traffic management, diving, and policing. It is also expected that Codes of Practice on vibration and biological hazards will be released for public comment in mid 2012.

We suggest that PCBUs and officers carefully read the Codes of Practice and take the relevant necessary steps in order to ensure that they discharge their duties to the appropriate standard under the WHS Act.

All of the Stage 1 Codes of Practice are available on the WorkCover website.

For up to the hour updates on developments in relation to the work health and safety law, link with Jeremy Kennedy on LinkedIn, subscribe to Workplace Health & Safety Lawyer discussion group on LinkedIn or follow Jeremy on Twitter @WHSLawyer.

Focus covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. Focus is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.

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