Bunnings has no heart

Written By: - Date published: 12:33 pm, March 27th, 2016 - 47 comments
Categories: business, health and safety, workers' rights, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

Mike Treen Robert Reid bunnings

An automatic entry to the WTF file. Bunnings has made a recent decision which makes you question all decisions that it may have made.

The background is that a few years ago a Dunedin worker at the local Bunnings shop suffered a heart attack at work and died. His fellow workers then fundraised and bought a defibrillator which was stored at the work premises. Bunnings management has insisted that it be removed. Talk about managerial overkill.

From the Herald:

Bunnings management has “put its foot down” and forced its Dunedin staff to gift the store’s defibrillator to a community group.

A Bunnings staff member, who did not want to be named due to fear of disciplinary action, said Bunnings New Zealand manager Jacqui Coombes visited the Dunedin store on Wednesday.

The management “put their foot down” and forced staff to remove the defibrillator from the store and give it to a community group.

“They said ‘it has to go, it’s not staying here’.”

The staff member did not know which community group would get the defibrillator.

A petition to retain the life-saving apparatus in the store, signed by most of the Bunnings Dunedin staff, was ignored by management, the staff member said.

“It was presented to Jacqui but she is staying firm with her decision that it [the defibrillator] is not staying in-store.’

The justification offered by management is that as a group, Bunnings does not hold defibrillators at its stores.  It is also worried about the availability of trained teams to operate the units and thought the risk of staff suffering from a heart attack was very low.  Such an excuse could justify the removal of first aid kits.  After all if a trained doctor was not present then who could use the contents?

Apparently the workers are to be compensated.  This does not make the decision any less high handed.

The decision is high handed and a perfect example of clogging managerial insistence that it knows best and an adherence to the managerial rule book that would make Sir Humphrey Appleby proud.

Just what you would expect from an organisation that paid volunteers less than the minimum wage and proposed an employment contract that would allow it to unilaterally change start and finish times for its workers.

47 comments on “Bunnings has no heart”

  1. RedLogix 1

    An exercise in brand value destruction written all over this.

    Bunnings actually has a fairly decent policy to employ older and retired trades people who bring good knowledge and excellent customer service. So you might imagine they’d also thought about the increased heart attack risk involved.

    Defib’s don’t need much maintenance and from personal experience you can be taught how to use one in about 10 minutes as part of the standard First Aid course most companies run these days.

    Sorry but a classic example of management bullshit if I ever saw.

    • Naki man 1.1

      I couldn’t agree more.
      We have several defibs at my work place paid for by the company.
      Bunnings have got rocks in their head.

    • HumPrac 1.2

      You actually don’t need any training to use a modern defib machine.
      The machine audibly guides you through every stage of the process and will only send the shock if it is safe to. It knows if someone is touching the body before it sends the shock.
      All you need to know is basic English.

  2. Visubversa 2

    Yes – we have at least one where I work and there are signs around as to who has been trained to use them.

  3. Keith 3

    Its simple really, don’t do business with Bunnings, they are arseholes to their employees and it shows in their stores.

  4. dv 4

    So the defib is removed

    Someone has a heart attack, and could have been saved by the defib.

    What would the H&S new regs say.

    The management have made the work place less safe- therefore they are liable?

    • Sacha 4.1

      Yes, the harsher laws coming in next month may force idiots like this CEO to reconsider such decisions – or face some jail time.

      • Richard McGrath 4.1.1

        The threat of imprisonment like that would discourage firms putting defibrillators in their premises in the first place.

    • fender 4.2

      This decision is quite bizarre to say the least. Even customers are disadvantaged.

      Jacqui must be very confident her heart is in optimal condition.

  5. Whispering Kate 5

    I think you will find that Bunnings is not prepared to fork out money and send workers off for training of this machine. They probably already have to send First Aid staff off every two years and resent having to pay for it being an OSH requirement. Talk about being mean spirited and crappy bosses. Also as Redlogix says they do have quite a large older staff who are the stuff of legends when you need help on any trade related problem. As well, they are shitty how they treat their staff with employment issues. My partner and I are now not going to bother going into them – not that there is much choice with all these big shed enterprises taking away the little hard ware stores we used to have. The way NZ is headed is down in the dump heap. Making them remove the defibrillator is as low as you can go.

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      We have one of these defibrillators at my work. The training consists of watching a 5 minute video on a DVD. You don’t have to be sent anywhere for training.

      The machines are designed to be used by someone with no medical knowledge at all. When you open them up, they have an automated voice that guides you through using the device, as well as large clear diagrams on the inside (since obviously this is a high stress situation for anyone administering treatment).

    • McFlock 5.2

      last time I did a first aid certificate, operating an AED was included.

      They need first aid certified staff onsite anyway. They are using “training” as an excuse to get rid of something their staff are already trained to use.

      • Richard McGrath 5.2.1

        I note in the post that nowhere is it mentioned that this was an AED (automated external defibrillator, the type that barks out orders). If it was a manual defibrillator, the boss may have a point; if an untrained person tried to operate a manual defib and failed to resuscitate a person with a cardiac arrest, would the company be liable for prosecution?

  6. Incognito 6

    Most bizarre decision to ban potentially life-saving equipment that comes at no significant cost to the company.

    BTW, as Whispering Kate @ 5 has already mentioned, each employer in NZ is legally required to provide a first aid kit in the workplace.

  7. Bill 7

    A corollary to the post and not a comment on the newsworthiness of it, but what the fuck is going on with ‘The Herald’? That story is about two weeks old. I can’t remember where I first saw it reported, but seriously…

    Their piece is dated as 27th March and they mention ‘Wednesday’ in the report (presumably referring to the 23rd March)

    Ah – here you go, Carla Green of the ODT on both the 11th of March and 13th of March.



    And the actual decision was taken about five weeks prior to the ODT reports….ie late January/early February.

    • Hannah 7.1

      And at least the ODT bothered to phone up Mitre 10 and Placemakers to establish that they have defibrillators in their stores (unlike the Herald!). It makes Bunnings the odd one out and shows just how heartless and uncaring about staff and customers they really are! You’d think once Bunnings realised their competitors have them that would finally be the reality check they needed, but no, the arrogance continues. I know I won’t be setting foot in a Bunnings store again unless this policy changes.

  8. AmaKiwi 8

    Bunnings has no customers.

    I drive past their store everyday on my way to and from work. I won’t set foot in it until they settle with the union. After this I probably won’t set foot in it even if they do settle.

  9. Rosie 9

    +1’s all around here.

    They seem intent on destroying their brand reputation with all their bad moves in recent times. This latest example is purely absurd. Removing a staff funded piece of life saving equipment is just nuts and the explanation is even nuttier. That Jackie Coombes seems to be a real piece of work.

    She doesn’t care about her workers but it looks like she doesn’t care about her customers either. With NZ’s high rate of heart disease and the number of humans going into their massive barns every weekend you think it would be wise to have a defibrillator on hand, just in case, especially as some one already lost their life in the store.
    As well as being an important piece of first aid, keep it there out of respect to the worker who died and out of respect to the workers who raised the money to buy it.

    Geez, Bunnings is really showing itself as the Talleys of the hardware industry. It’s not a competition to be NZ’s worst employer guys.

  10. Incognito 10

    What happened to personal responsibility and initiative? It got replaced by corporate obedience and uniformity.

  11. red-blooded 11

    The excuse about training just doesn’t hold water. All workplaces have to send people for first aid training, and defib training is a standard part of that. Plus, defibs actually tell you what to do very explicitly at each step in the process. My only guess is that she’s afraid of damage to her brand if someone has heart problems, is treated with the machine and dies anyway. My understanding is that reasonably modern defibs actually assess the heart function and won’t let you shock someone who doesn’t need it. Of course, it doesn’t always work, but it’s sure better than nothing.

  12. hoom 12

    So who is likely to be the recipient:
    The Taxpayers Union?
    Probably a good idea for Whale to have one around…

  13. Lanthanide 13

    It may be unlikely for a staff member to suffer a heart attack. But it’s highly likely that a member of the public in their store will, in a 10 year time frame.

    Also, if anyone at the store suffers a heart attack and the defibrillator is not available and they die as a result, this would count as reckless behaviour on the part of the organisation to remove a safety device and therefore from a health and safety point of view, opens this company up to a fine of $600,000 for the company CEO under the new health and safety act (the one all the principles are unjustifiably worried about).

    • Richard McGrath 13.1

      What would be the practical difference between no longer having a defib on site, versus never having had one? As I’ve commented earlier, to be faced with prosecution for removing a defib would discourage businesses from putting one in in the first place.

      • McFlock 13.1.1

        Not really.

        The difference is the active decision to not have the defib, as opposed to the mild negligence in never having considered having one in the first place..

        These days every large facility should have at least one onsite, whether they have rejected one or not. What we are seeing is a repeat of the transition period where every workplace now has to have a first aid kit or a fire extinguisher onsite.

        Bunnings are fighting a losing battle against progress on this one.

        • RedLogix

          Exactly. What baffles me is how most management these days, however inept, is usually pretty keen to be seen putting in place pro-active safety measures. Defibs are all the rage in most larger facilities.

          So why are these clunk-heads going in the opposite direction? What the hell is their motivation? Just to piss off their staff and chase away customers?

          Does not compute.

      • Lanthanide 13.1.2

        The rationale goes like this:

        Once a risk to safety and health has been identified, and a safety measure has been put in place to eliminate or minimise the risk, the company can be said to have performed All Reasonably Practicable Measures in managing the risk.

        If that safety measure is deliberately removed in the future, and the risk itself has not changed, the company is no longer taking All Reasonably Practicable Measures in managing the risk. This counts as reckless behaviour under the health and safety legislation, which has the top headline fine of $600,000.

        It’s more obvious if you think about it in other situations: imagine some manufacturing machinery that comes with safety guards to prevent people cutting their arms off. After 6 months, management are annoyed at this safety guard because they (erroneously) believe it is harming their productivity, so they remove the guard. Someone proceeds to cut their arm off while using the machine (thus having a huge impact on productivity of the company in that they have massive inconvenience while the worksafe investigation is carried out on the premises). The people who made the decision to remove the guard are now guilty of reckless behaviour.

        • McFlock

          But it’s an obligation to identify and report hazards.
          It’s also an obligation to isolate, minimise or eliminate those hazards.

          To use your dangerous machine analogy, these days if a machine has no safety guards then the company and employees are already liable, both for neither reporting nor addressing the hazard. This applies regardless of whether the machine had guards removed, or was merely installed in the days before safety was much of a factor and the briefing consisted of “don’t stick your hand in it then”.

          A staff member has already died onsite due to a heart problem. Bunnings have to take reasonable steps to minimise the chances of that happening again. AEDs are becoming ubiquitous because they save lives.

          Back when I worked in a small department store, there were about 80 staff onsite and thousands of customers a day. The southD Bunnings probably wouldn’t be out of that league. I seriously think that within a few years it will become a reasonable osh requirement for a store that size to have an AED onsite – I think it’s a reasonable human requirement right now.

          • Craig H

            The staff should put in H&S reports prior to every H&S meeting to force it onto the agenda, and brings the liability issue to the fore if/when another heart attack occurs.

            • McFlock

              That’s what I’d do (and have actually done) as one of nature’s bureaucrats, but it can be difficult getting some groups of employees to do that sort of thing. Combination of fear of management retaliation and fear of paperwork.

              But the old hazard register can be a pretty potent weapon, in my experience.

            • Lanthanide

              Don’t worry, if there’s another heart attack at that store, WorkSafe are going to be fully aware of Jacqui Coombes’s reckless negligence. It won’t need to be recorded in the stores health and safety meeting minutes in order for them to prosecute her 🙂

          • Lanthanide

            Yes, but the top-level $600,000 fine only applies in cases of recklessness. Failing to identify a safety hazard doesn’t count as recklessness (well, usually, anyway).

            • McFlock

              I suspect that the distinction between “reckless” and simply “failing to comply with duty” depends upon how obvious the hazard should have been when it comes to identification. Having someone die onsite because of it would be a pretty big hint that it’s a risk.

              But the actions of the social club clearly indicate that it has actually been identified as a risk.

              • Lanthanide

                The reckless aspect is because:
                1. A hazard was identified.
                2. A mitigation was put in place to manage that hazard.
                3. The mitigation was removed (apparently due to cost) and no alternative mitigation measure was put in place.

  14. Mouse 14

    Hi bunnies,

    You owe a “duty of care” to both your employees and your customers… I recommend you revisit the company’s policy on Tuesday morning.



  15. Ad 15

    Bad word choice emojiiii!!

  16. Whippersnapper 16

    Bunnings haven a clue about how they are damaging heir brand .

    Younger like me want a say in our our job works . It has to work for the company it has to work for me too.
    The union is piggy in the middle but with out them at our side we would be going nowhere.

  17. Whispering Kate 17

    Another thought since I posted my previous comment. If the staff passed the hat around and paid for the defibrillator themselves, what on earth authority have the company to tell them they have to donate it to charity. It belongs to the staff. The employees should get a couple of themselves trained up and keep the defibrillator in a staff member’s car, out in the car park and if an emergency occurs then just get the darned thing out and use it. Its the worst PR exercise I think I have ever come across.

    • Wensleydale 17.1

      Ms Coombes seems to be of the managerial mindset that “It’s our company, our premises, you’re all our employees, so you’ll shut up and do as you’re told if you want to keep your jobs, you ungrateful serfs!”

      She must be an absolute gem to work for.

  18. Mouse 18

    @Ad “duty of care” is a very specific word choice 🎯

  19. Firstly I have a few questions about this. So does it take a lot of training to use a defibrillator? Can someone do someone more harm if they don’t use it properly on someone? If so, would the employer go for a skate if someone did have a heart attack at work and if a untrained employee used a defibrillator and caused more damage? If so, then it’s health and safety rules that are biting you more than the employer.

    • RedLogix 19.1

      1. No. The modern ones use a voice to guide you through the process. Anyone can do it, although 10 minutes training in a First Aid course will boost your confidence.

      2. Absolutely not. They are quite sophisticated machines that will NOT deliver the shock unless it is absolutely required and safe to do so.

      3. Complicated legal question. Short answer: very unlikely.

      Short conclusion: Bunnings management have rocks in their heads.

  20. dv 20

    Bunnings management have rocks in their heads.

    Nope, rocks would be smarter.

  21. Anton Angelo 21

    The logic is simple and tragic. “If we have an AED in one store,” the corporate suits will have reasoned, “we will need them in all our stores. How much will that cost?” clickity click. “Too much.”

    Once the answer is quantified, then in our corporate culture it is unassailable, no matter what the greater good.

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