Safe Work Australia (SWA) has provided clarification on the interaction between Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws and Australian Standards.
Following a change in the model WHS Act in 2022, compliance with Australian Standards is not mandatory unless specified in a provision or clause.
SWA emphasizes that only a small number of Standards need to be followed to comply with WHS laws. The model WHS Regulations reference provisions from 17 Standards, including those related to occupational health and safety management systems, respiratory protective devices, occupational noise management, and more.
While compliance with Standards is not automatically considered compliance with WHS laws, a court may view adherence to a Standard as relevant when determining if a duty holder has fulfilled their WHS obligations.
SWA highlights that even if a person conforms to a Standard, it does not guarantee compliance with WHS laws. Other risk controls that are reasonably practicable may still need to be implemented to minimize health and safety risks. Therefore, while compliance with Standards is not mandatory, they may still be considered by a court when evaluating whether a duty holder has met their WHS obligations.