What is the difference between a law and a code of practice?
ACTS and REGULATIONS may on first encounter appear to be the same thing and equal but they are legally not the same thing and are not equal.
ACTS are pieces of statutory legislation passed by Parliament. This is law.
For example, the Work Health And Safety (WHS) Act, which is a formal description of health and safety law passed in a state or territory. It gives a general overview of how to make workplaces safe and healthy.
REGULATIONS are subordinate to ACTS. They are linked to an existing ACT and they aim to aid a person to apply the principles of the primary ACT. They set out the standards you need to meet for specific hazards and risks, such as noise, machinery, and manual handling. They also set out the licenses you need for specific activities, the records you need to keep, and the reports you need to make.
These are formal guidelines and breaching them is not 100% enforceable in the courts unless the breach is linked to the statutory legislation offence of the ACT, and there was no defence under the Act applicable.
Examples of regulations include:
- First Aid at Work Regulations
- The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations
- Fire Safety Regulations
Underneath ACTS and REGULATIONS then sits formal national guidance and often is called GUIDANCE or CODES OF PRACTICE. An example of this is the First aid in the workplace Code of practice 2014.
A breach of guidance or codes of practice is not necessarily an offence and would need to be directly linked back to the primary ACT offence.
A WHS CODE OF PRACTICE is a practical guide on how to comply with the legal duties under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and Regulations.
Codes of practice have a special status because an approved code is automatically admissible as evidence in court proceedings under the WHS Act and Regulations.
National Code of Practice for First Aid in the Workplace
Queensland Code of Practice for First Aid in the Workplace