Hardware retailer Bunnings is copping flak online after issuing new guidelines to sausage sizzlers asking them to place onions underneath snags rather than on top.
The decision has split the internet, sparking a debate about how the classic Australian sausage in bread should be eaten.
Furore aside, the reason behind the decision is actually fairly sensible, at least from the perspective of Bunnings’ legal team.
Bunnings’ chief operating officer Debbie Pool explained in a statement the change was driven by occupational health and safety concerns, namely that onion falling from the top of sausages onto the ground creates a slipping hazard.
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“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,” she said.
Praying for the person who slipped on a stray Bunnings BBQ onion sliver and prompted this policy change
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) 13 November 2018
While the prospect of someone slipping over a rebellious piece of onion and breaking their hip sounds ridiculous, the retailer has about 300 stores across the country and services thousands of customers daily.
Imagine a customer cantering towards the exit in a bid to get back home and finish their DIY project — it only takes one stray slice.
#Bunnings sausage sizzle has gone all OH & S. Apparently, cooked onions can become a “slipping hazard” and now must be placed on the bread first. I want to know the name of the fwit that came up with this. #savethesausagesizzle #unaustralian #jokingsurely
— @multistrada4 Peter Wallace. WA. (@Multistrada4) 13 November 2018
Gina Capasso, special counsel at KHQ and an expert in occupational health and safety law, says it’s hard to see stray onion being a big risk for Bunnings, but there is a clear liability.
“Bunnings has a duty under the work health and safety legislation in running their business,” she tells SmartCompany.
“Anything that arises from their business that creates a risk to those workers or other persons means they need to identify, assess it and implement appropriate controls.”
Capasso explains even some stall operators, depending on whether they are not-for-profits, could also be liable under OH&S laws.
Bunnings is likely taking preventative steps so if a slipping case does come before the court in the future, they’ll be able to argue that they’ve attempted to rectify hazards.
“They would argue that they took steps to prevent it from happening,” Capasso says.
It doesn’t appear as though Bunnings has directed stall operators to onion up sausages in a particular way, but the provision of guidelines provides it with a degree of legal protection.