A code of practice provides information and guidelines for businesses to meet the Work Health and Safety standards and abide by the relevant laws. The details are not meant to act as a replacement for the laws, rather they aim to assist the business in complying with the work health and safety laws and regulations. A code of practice is usually not mandatory and can be adapted to different occupations and organisations. It applies to individuals that have a duty of care in the workplace, typically the employer’s duty of care to employees. A code of practice is generally initiated by government or industry bodies.

A code of practice needs to be approved by local regulators. An approved code of practice might be used in court as evidence but it is usually not mandatory to comply with the code. Countries and states have different requirements, policies and expectations related to the code of practice. Businesses need to be aware that the requirements might change over the years and they need to stay updated.

What is included in a code of practice

The code of practice includes information on how to deal with certain issues and hazards. It has its limitations, however, as it does not cover all the relevant risks that an organisation might face. A code of practice includes ways for businesses to identify, control and manage risks. It is important to understand the wording in the code.

Sentences that use non-committal language such as ‘may’ could be an optional action a business may take. Sentences that use more authoritative language such as ‘should’ refer to recommendations in relation to an event. However, when words like ‘must’, ‘mandatory’ and ‘requires’ are present, there is an indication that the actions need to be taken for legal reasons. These activities are usually necessary to abide by work health and safety laws.

Before businesses decide to create a code of practice and what to include in it, they need to consider whether guidance is necessary in order to comply with the laws and regulations. Therefore, a successful code of practice should provide clear and concise information on how to meet work health and safety standards. The code will need to highlight the risk it is addressing and the recommended or required course of action businesses need to take to manage it.

All the details related to the risks, hazards or problems need to be written in a way that allows for updates to occur in terms of changing laws. However, employers need to make sure the code does not need constant editing because of weaknesses in terms of language and information.

Regarding its structure, a code of practice usually includes a cover page, a table of contents, relevant definitions and information and appendices at the end.


There is a diverse range of codes of practice that apply to different industries. They address the various risks and hazards businesses may face in their workplace. A single code of practice will not be suitable for every company, every service or product. Some common codes of practice regulate:

  • Children and young workers
  • Confined spaces
  • First Aid in the Workplace
  • How to manage work health and safety risks
  • Safe design of structures

Children and young workers

This code of practice was developed for people under 18 who might be in a workplace. It covers activities and safety measures regardless of the working status of the individuals. Some examples include a child entering a shop as a customer or a child entering someone’s workplace unknowingly. The code focuses on how to reduce risks associated with children as their actions can be unpredictable. It also covers the conduct of others, such as adult employees, and how their actions can affect the welfare of a child.

For young workers, it could be that they are inexperienced and are unaware of how to deal with a situation. The code of practice outlines the training that young workers will need to receive to become more knowledgeable and assist them in responding to different events. A lot of young people get hurt at work from risks that could have been prevented if adequate training had been provided. This is why the code is important, to create an environment where young workers feel comfortable with asking for assistance, clarification and where they feel comfortable – not intimidated.

Confined spaces

A confined space refers to an area that poses or could pose a risk to individuals. It is usually not constructed for people to occupy it, not only because of its size but the way it is designed as well. For example, lack of ventilation may be a reason a confined space poses a risk to people. This code of practice covers confined spaces that could be a risk to the stakeholders of a business. It could be because of their low oxygen levels, high risk of injury or death or dangerous materials contained within that space.

The confined spaces code of practice provides the scope and definitions, as well as the locations of these areas within the workplace. It also outlines the responsibilities of managers and supervisors and a risk assessment guideline.

First aid in the workplace

This is a very common code of practice that is usually found in most, if not all workplaces. It explains the procedures, training and steps that need to be taken to provide first aid in the case of an incident. Businesses need to provide adequate facilities for first aid as well as first aid kits and relevant equipment that all employees need to have access to. A first aid code of practice outlines who counts as an employee of the business and whether some employees will need to receive special training to become first aiders. It also explains what needs to be included in a first aid kit, as well as its location and design.

Signs might be required for employees to know where to find the first aid kit, first aid facilities or the first aider. Workplaces that comply with this code of practice usually meet the standards of work health and safety requirements.

How to manage work health and safety risks

The goal of this code is the overall goal of a code of practice. To protect employees from work health and safety risks. All employers have a duty of care to their staff. This document shows the measures employers should take to ensure risk minimisation and prevention as well as hazard identification.

It outlines clearly how to assess risks, control them and review those controls. It also offers examples of the risk management process and a guide on how employers or management can evaluate if something will go wrong.

Safe design of structures

This code of practice includes guidelines on how structures could be designed to abide by the work health and safety laws. People who usually comply with this code are building designers, developers and architects along with anyone else who can influence the final structural design. Some of the structures covered include roads, bridges and buildings.

  • Electrical safety
  • Fire and emergencies
  • Movement of people and materials
  • Radiation
  • Working environment

Code of practice gives information about the risks during the design phase, the development phase and events that might need to be accounted for such as potential demolition or modification.


All codes of practice focus on protecting employees and encouraging compliance with work health and safety laws. Abiding by these laws means that fatalities and injuries decrease. In Australia in 2020, 194 were fatally injured but the fatality rate has decreased over the years. Taking initiatives to protect employees is beneficial in more than one way.

The most obvious benefit is that employee welfare is looked after and employees feel cared for. They do not need to take time off due to an injury at work and a safe work environment is can increase productivity. A code of practice also ensures that there are very few or no claims against the business that could result in lawsuits and additional costs.

A code of practice minimises the risk of damaging the organisation’s reputation. If society deems that the business does not care about the safety of its employees then the ethicality and reputation of the company will be put into question. Even though a code of practice is usually not mandatory, it can demonstrate how the business values its workers and wants to provide them with an environment with virtually no hazards.


A code of practice is not meant to replace the work health and safety laws. It serves as a guide to help businesses protect their employees’ welfare. Compliance is usually not mandatory but the code of practice offers many benefits to both employers and employees. There are various codes that apply to different industries and they can be adapted to fit diverse organisations.

One document might not be able to assess all risks in the workplace, but by following different codes, companies can decrease injuries and fatalities at work. It is important to remember that the codes apply to anyone that could visit the workplace, not only employees.