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When do I need to switch to a new Australian Standard? Spotlight on AS/NZS 5149

In a recent update, we explored the question of whether Australian Standards are mandatory, and whether businesses and technical professionals need to comply with the standards.

In this update, we provide a case study to explain when you need to transition from an old Australian Standard to a new version. Our case study is based on one of the key standards in the HVACR sector – AS/NZS 5149: Refrigeration systems and heat pumps.

Transition from the previous standard, AS/NZS 1677

Previously, the prevailing HVACR standard was AS/NZS 1677: Refrigeration systems. Then in 2016, a review process was undertaken by Standards Australia through a technical committee with representatives from various government and industry bodies. This review process culminated with the publication of the new AS/NZS 5149 standard on 19 October 2016.

Did publication of the new 5149 standard make it mandatory?

In short, no. As Standards Australia explains in one of its “Standardisation Guides”, Australian Standards on their own “have no legal status and no requirement for compliance”. It is only when a standard is actually referred to in a law that the standard then becomes mandatory.

In our case, even though AS/NZS 5149 had been published by Standards Australia on 19 October 2016, the previous AS/NZS 1677 continued to apply as this was the standard that at that time continued to be referenced in various laws throughout Australia.

So when did AS/NZS 5149 become mandatory?

To fully answer this question, we would need to examine each law that previously referenced AS/NZS 1677 and identify when the reference was updated to the new AS/NZS 5149 standard. Let’s take 2 examples:

From these 2 examples, we see that while Standards Australia published the new AS/NZS 5149 standard in October 2016, the previous AS/NZS 1677 standard continued to apply for over 2 years. It was only in late 2018 that AS/NZS 5149 became mandatory when Commonwealth and Victoria laws were updated to refer to the new standard.

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