Do you know the rules about the rules?

You can’t make sense of the TCP Code, and you certainly can’t comply with it, if you aren’t well informed about Australian Standard 3806.  If the TCP Code is ‘the rules’ then the Australian Standard is ‘the rules about the rules’.

It amazes us how many discussions of the new TCP Code begin with an academic discussion of the Code development process (Who cares?  It’s here, and it’s the law. Move on.) instead of explaining that before you ever read the rules, you need to understand the Standard.

About the Standard

Australian Standard 3806 is a set of principles and action points about how a Compliance Program should be built, and how it should work.  The Standard means that it is not sufficient for a company to comply on a particular day, or because of a one-off compliance effort.  Compliance with the TCP Code also requires:

  • documented and demonstrated board-level commitment
  • a written Compliance Plan
  • supporting policies and processes that create continuing compliance
  • express allocation of responsibilities to designated staff / positions
  • management leadership
  • staff training
  • a budget
  • internal resourcing
  • supplementary external resourcing as required
  • compliance monitoring
  • review and continuous improvement.

So, compliance with TCP Code Requirement A or Outcome X doesn’t just mean: ‘Yes, we normally try to do that’ or ‘Sure, that’s what we did last time’ or ‘Right, we’ll try to remember that’.  It means ‘It’s what we do, and the whole company is committed to doing, and our systems and processes are designed to make sure it works that way — as per the Australian Standard.’

You need your own copy of the Australian Standard

The Standard is integral to the Code and your compliance effort.  So get your own copy from for about $83.

“Tell me why.  Give me an example”

OK.  Imagine you went to a cafe and got talking to the chef.  There’s been a high profile newspaper story that day about a restaurant that food poisoned fifty people.  So you ask the chef about how she keeps her kitchen safe.

“Well” she says, “I was taught to always wash my hands, and keep surfaces germ-free, and knives disinfected and food chilled and so on.  That’s why I have never had a health incident.”

“So” you ask, “What about your nights off when the back up chef takes over?  Do they do it exactly the way you do?”  “Don’t know” she replies.  “But I assume so.  Doesn’t everyone do all that stuff?”

“Apparently not” you say.  “According to the article in the paper, there are people who don’t.  So you haven’t actually sat down and talked through this with the back up?  You haven’t given them written instructions about the standard you require?  You don’t have anyone come in and spot check them from time to time?  You don’t ask them to assure you that everything is being done as required?  You don’t have signs in the staff toilets reminding them to wash their hands?”  “No” she says, “but we’ve never had a sick customer.”

“That’s great” you say. “But isn’t that good luck more than good management on your part?”

You would have felt a whole lot more confident if the chef had a system in place to ensure that standards on Tuesday night were reliably, and demonstrably, the same as every other night.  That’s what the Australian Standard is about.  It’s about being able to say more than “We sure did throw out the five day old prawns today.”  It’s about being able to say:

“We never use the prawns after five days.  When they arrive, they are put into a sterile plastic container that’s dated on the lid.  Every morning, containers that are up to their fifth day are trashed.  We keep a sheet on the kitchen wall that lists every seafood delivery and date, and one of the apprentice’s jobs is to check that nothing in the fridge matches anything on the list that arrived more than four days ago.  He signs off in a little box every time he checks.

“The waiting staff are under instruction to let us know immediately if there are any negative comments about the prawn dishes, and we do a double check before any more go out.

“All this is written down in kitchen operations notes, and we use them whenever a new staff member comes on board.  And one every six months we have a team meeting where we talk about the notes and make sure everyone is still fully aware of them.  We often get good suggestions at those meetings, and I’ll frequently add them to the notes.”

This is the kind of thing the TCP Code and Australian Standard are driving at: that you have commitment and systems and paperwork and communication and checks and improvements that make compliance a natural, normal outcome, not a gamble.

So before you read the TCP Code, understand that “You’ll do this” or “You’ll do that” mean much more than “If we got it right today, we can relax.  It’s all good.”  For hundreds of  requirements in the Code, you need to ask:

  • Where’s the commitment?
  • Where’s the resources?
  • Where’s the accountability?
  • Where’s the system?
  • Where’s the documentation?
  • Where’s the training?
  • Where’s the auditing?
  • Where’s the record keeping?
  • Where’s the enforcement?
  • Where’s the feedback?
  • Where’s the continual improvement?

That’s why the Australian Standard is ‘the rules about the rules’.

Cooper Mills trains service providers about the Standard

When we help telcos understand and deal with the TCP Code, Cooper Mills is well aware that AS 3806 is critical … so we make sure you are comfortable with it.

About Peter Moon

A telco lawyer with a truckload of experience
This entry was posted in Backgrounders, Staff Training. Bookmark the permalink.