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Wal-Mart mounts large-scale legal campaign against OSHA crowd management fine

A previous workers' compensation defense post discussed how it's not uncommon for people all over the United States to gather outside the front doors of major retail stores and other establishments for the official start of a major sale or to secure a much-desired new product.

Specifically, the post explored how these sales/promotions can present potential safety hazards to store employees and how certain crowd management/control measures should be utilized in order to prevent potentially serious injuries from occurring.

It also explored how the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is now cracking down on organizations that fail to follow proper crowd management/control guidelines.

The impetus for this OSHA crackdown was a tragic incident back in 2008 in which an employee was fatally trampled at a Wal-Mart in New York by a mob pouring into a store when the doors opened upon a Black Friday sale.

Interestingly, Wal-Mart was recently fined $7,000 by OSHA for failing to follow the aforementioned crowd management/control guidelines in connection with this workplace fatality.

Perhaps even more interesting, the retail giant has now expended vast sums of money - almost $2 million - contesting this rather reasonable fine in federal court. (A federal judge recently upheld the OSHA fine, calling Wal-Mart's precautions to protect its employees both "minimal and ineffective.")

According to industry experts, Wal-Mart's primary motivation in mounting such an aggressive legal defense is likely fear of excessive interference by government agencies in sales efforts and/or marketing campaigns.

"The precarious situation is that you have government micromanaging how sales are conducted, and really saying they need to be conducted in a certain way," said Casey Chroust, an executive vice president at Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Furthermore, Wal-Mart - along with many others in the retail industry - likely fears that the OSHA fine will set the stage for retailers to have to predict when a crowd is likely to get out of control, a rather difficult determination.

"What is officially defined as a dangerous crowd?" said Chroust. "If you have a sale that's going to take place for a hot video game, a new piece of technology that's going to be released, do you have to start putting into place crowd-management procedures if even the possibility of a crowd could emerge?"

Stay tuned for further developments on this story and the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

Ruling emphasizes crowd control by retailers (The New York Times)

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