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“Reasonably Practicable” Fried Onions at Bunnings

Last week we sent you an article about “reasonably practicable” WHS requirements based on a train that had to be derailed in West Australia. In the same week a “reasonably practicable” situation about fried onions in the workplace appeared in a number of media outlets. Some of the media comments were less than complimentary about Bunnings’ change of procedures for fried onions in sausage sizzles at their premises. But Bunnings was right to take action about the situation which is a good example of minimising risk “so far as is reasonably practicable” as we explain below in this article. You are welcome to pass this article on to your HSRs, Committee Members, Supervisors and Managers. The Sausage Sizzles For a good many years Bunnings has supported local community groups and allowed these groups to raise funds by doing sausage sizzles on a Saturday morning in an appropriate location outside Bunnings - very commendable. This is well known to Courtenell as a number of our employees have served as volunteers at many sausage sizzles. Last week, in response to widespread media interest, the CEO of Bunnings issued a media release that included: "Safety is always our number one priority and we recently introduced a suggestion that onion be placed underneath sausages to help prevent the onion from falling out and creating a slipping hazard." "This recommendation is provided to the community groups within their fundraising sausage sizzle welcome pack and is on display within the gazebos when barbeques are underway.” We do not know if the change in onion procedure came about as a result of near misses, or actual slips on fried onions, or simply a HSR or other worker suggesting that making the change could reduce the risk of a slip. Or perhaps the need for change came up when management reviewed risk controls in the workplace – see page 17 of the How to Manage Work Health & Safety Risks Code of Practice. The Code recommends a regular review of risk controls and consultation with workers about those controls. What is well known is the potential for harm from a slip. That harm can vary from bruises, sprains and all the way up to broken bones, hospitalisation and long term debilitating pain. A good number of public who come to Bunnings already have pre-existing injuries and/or are seniors and are thus particularly prone to harm from slipping and falling onto the floor or the ground. PCBU’s* have a duty under Section 17 of the WHS Act “to eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable”, and if that is not possible, then they must “minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable”. Making the change in onion procedure is doing something that is “reasonably practicable” to help minimise the risk of a slip. (Note that businesses operating in Victoria and W.A. do not operate under the WHS Act but do have to comply with OHS laws in those States that are similar to WHS law risk requirements). Definition * PCBU means: a person conducting a business or undertaking (A ‘person’ is defined in laws dealing with interpretation of legislation to include a body corporate (company), unincorporated body or association and a partnership. 20th November 2018


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