Australian Standards are a set of technical guidelines and requirements developed by Standards Australia – the main body responsible for developing standards in our country. These standards are used across a range of industries to ensure products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality.
When Standards Australia develops and then publishes a new standard, this does not automatically mean that there is a legal requirement to comply with the standard. It is only when a standard is actually referred to in a particular law, that compliance with the standard then becomes a mandatory.
Some examples of mandatory standards
Here are a couple of examples of standards that have become mandatory because they have been referred to by law:
- Child restraint systems. Certain parts of AS/NZS 1754:2013, Child restraint systems for use in motor vehicles, as this standard has been declared as a “safety standard” under the Australian Consumer Law.
- Fire sprinkler systems. Taking Victoria as an example, AS 4118.1 Fire sprinkler systems has been referred to as a mandatory standard under the Plumbing Regulations 2018.
- Refrigeration and air conditioning. One of the key standards in the HVACR sector, AS/NZS 5149 Refrigeration systems and heat pumps, has been referenced in various Commonwealth and state-based laws, making this standard mandatory.
Occupational Health & Safety
In the Occupational Health and Safety / Work Health Safety sphere, compliance with Australian Standards can also be very important. While particular standards are not usually referenced in OH&S and WHS laws, guidance documentation published by the various safety authorities does urge compliance with various Australian Standards.
Being able to show compliance with relevant standards may assist businesses and individuals to demonstrate compliance with OH&S / WHS duties. This is especially important given that contraventions OH&S and WHS can attract penalties of several $100,000s and even $millions.
Industry codes of practice
Another important example where Australian Standards are referenced is industry codes of practice. Take for example the Australia and New Zealand Refrigerant Handling Code of Practice 2007. This Code includes a substantial list of Australian Standards, however compliance with this Code isn’t mandatory in and of itself. But when we look to technical regulations such as the Victorian Plumbing Regulations 2018, we see that those regulations make it a legal requirement to comply with the Code (and therefore, the standards that the Code contains).
As we have seen above, various laws and regulations require compliance with Australian Standards. But what about private commercial contracts? How does these common agreements fit into the picture?
In short, if a law requires compliance with a standard, a business cannot use the wording of a contract to avoid having to comply with that standard. However if a Standard has been developed but has not been incorporated by law, parties to a private contract can themselves adopt the standard and make it mandatory in relation to any goods or services to be supplied under the contract.
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