Bunnings is set to put defibrillators in five stores after a union said the company removed three of the devices, including some bought through staff fundraising.
In a statement today, Bunnings denied it had confiscated any defibrillators, but said it was reviewing its position on the devices after listening to customers and staff.
The company had been under fire after First Union said Bunnings removed three of the devices from its stores over the past few months - two bought through staff fundraising efforts.
About three years ago, staff at the company's Dunedin store fundraised to buy a defibrillator after a co-worker died of a heart condition, but the union said senior staff had recently removed it.
The union told RNZ News the company also insisted on the removal of a defibrillator at its Nelson store about a month ago, and at its Gisborne store before Christmas.
"Whilst we undertake this review, which will include consideration of expert information that is available regarding this matter, we will be working with a respected provider to place units in five of our stores, three of which will be Dunedin, Gisborne and Nelson," Marketing Manager Valerie Staley said.
The union's retail spokesperson, Maxine Gay, said Bunnings had backed down, and described it as "a victory for common sense".
"People were shocked at the heavy-handed approach by Bunnings to remove the defibrillators when staff themselves had fundraised to buy them to provide a safe and healthy workplace for themselves ,and good customer service."
She said Bunnings had removed the defibrillators to assert their power over staff.
The union's Nelson organiser, Rachel Boyack, said that when staff there asked why the defibrillator had been removed, they were told it was because of maintenance costs.
"It's concerning under the new health and safety law that this seems to be Bunnings' risk-averse response. The staff were really unhappy as it was something they also fundraised for."
She said staff had been told the defibrillator would be donated to a local community group.
But in their statement, Bunnings said cost had at no time been a consideration in the matter.
"We will also continue to honour our commitment to donate any existing units to local community groups," Ms Staley said.
St John Ambulance has said defibrillators increase the chance of someone surviving a cardiac arrest by up to 40 percent.