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When it comes to safety in the workplace, what is the difference between code of practice and legislation?

By Jennifer Anderson | Last updated: April 2, 2018

Legislation refers to laws that have been enacted and must be followed. Employers and employees who fail to follow the legislation can be charged, as they are breaking the law if they do not follow the legislation. Legislation is enacted by a legislative body. They are intended to be followed by all citizens of the jurisdiction in which they were enacted. Their intent is to ensure, as much as possible, the protection of workers, service people and others from anything that may cause harm. The purpose of legislation is to control risks to injury or health that could occur in the workplace.

Codes of practice are guidelines and rules that members of a profession, trade, occupation, organization, union or brotherhood are expected to adhere to. Codes of practice do not usually carry the force of legislation. They are often “rules” crafted by the members of that work group as a result of actual or potential dangers observed on the job. Codes of practice are created to guard the safety of its members. In essence, they say, “This is how we operate in this profession or union or brotherhood or craft no matter which worksite we are on.”

Workplace policies are "rules" an employee must follow. They are usually created by the employer to safeguard his employees, avoid worker deaths or injuries, cut the costs of worker absence due to injury and avoid lawsuits. Workplace policies are formal procedures instituted by management or owners. These are clearly written in employee handbooks and/or they are posted in the workplace. Employees may be required to attend in-service sessions and to sign that they know these policies and have received in-service training. Workplace policies say, “This is how we do things at this worksite.”


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