By Robyn Molloy

Businesses are a step closer to accessing work safety standards documentation for cheaper or free, after an exclusive document distribution agreement ended in December.

Standards Australia announced last week that an independent arbitrator had ruled any extension to the distribution agreement with SAI Global – in place since 2003 – would be non-exclusive.

CCIWA’s Safety and Risk Consultant Matt Butterworth welcomed the change as it would ultimately make the documents more affordable.

“That contract has finished and it is not going to be renewed, so it will be a free market for how the standards will be distributed,” he said.

“As that hasn’t been finalised or agreed on with any other party yet, there is still a requirement to go through SAI Global in the short term.”

“Ultimately, it’s going to reduce costs, which is a positive step.”

Butterworth says a common purchase, which was not compulsory, was the AS Planning for Emergencies in Facilities which is $250.

“So, if you have that plus all of the other standards which are not necessarily safety related and you have to comply with all of those, it gets quite costly, especially for something you have to have as it is a requirement of law.”

CCIWA supports the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s push for free access to Australian Standards.

ACCI’s Associate Director - Work Health & Safety and Workers’ Compensation Policy Jennifer Low says a number of health and safety Codes of Practice refer readers to Australian Standards for further information.

“This is intended to provide additional guidance on how an employer or person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) may discharge their duty under the legislation, but by incorporating the Standard by reference it becomes quasi-legislation of which a failure to comply with the terms may carry serious consequences for business,” she says.

“The Australian Chamber has maintained that Australian Standards should not be referenced in health and safety legislation (including Codes) unless they are made freely available.

“Australian Standards are costly and numerous. Business cannot be expected to purchase the range of Australian Standards, especially given the high volume of cross-referencing between standards.”

Standards were available free in state and national libraries until negotiations over subscription fees broke down in 2016 and the documents were no longer available.

Industry and politicians have long argued that access to the documents should be free. 

Standards Australia Chairman Richard Brooks said the organisation was “exploring additional distribution channels” and would consult with stakeholders over the next few months.