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OSHA urges proper crowd management during Black Friday sales

A few days from now, many Americans will put away their Thanksgiving leftovers and turn their attention to holiday sales. In fact, many will leave the comfort of their homes during the late evening or early morning hours to take advantage of Black Friday sales advertising deep discounts on big ticket items.

Interestingly, those shoppers willing to brave the long lines and big crowds probably won't notice that many retail stores now have measures in place to manage potential safety hazards to store employees and prevent serious - or even fatal - work injuries during the frenzy of Black Friday sales.

These safety measures can likely be traced to a tragic 2008 incident in which an employee was fatally trampled by a mob pouring into a store when the doors opened upon a Black Friday sale, and the subsequent call to action by the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for retailers to protect their employees.

In fact, OSHA recently released a fact sheet instructing retailers on proper crowd management safety guidelines.

"Crowd control is critical to preventing injuries and deaths," said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary for OSHA. "These incidents can be prevented by adopting a crowd management plan, and this fact sheet provides retail employers with guidelines for avoiding injuries during the holiday shopping season."

A complete analysis of fact sheet is beyond the scope of this single blog entry. However, it is still worthwhile to examine a few of the more noteworthy recommendations regarding planning for Black Friday sales or other large-scale holiday promotions:

  • Formulate a comprehensive staffing plan that accounts for such variables as crowd size, number of employees required to man entrances and exits, etc.
  • Retain the services of trained personnel, security or police officers to manage the large crowds.
  • Create an emergency plan that accounts for potential hazards to employees (crowd crushes/overly large crowds, crowd violence, work injuries and a fire)
  • Train all on-site employees in the emergency plan

The fact sheet goes on to provide safety recommendations covering the pre-event setup, the actual sales event and emergency procedures.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), "US Labor Department's OSHA encourages major retailers to provide crowd management measures to protect workers during major sales events" Nov. 9, 2011

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