HR Strange But True!
November 18, 2009

Everybody loves a sale, but one sale in particular has become so hazardous to retail workers that OSHA has released some guidelines to help keep them safe.

The day after Thanksgiving has become known as Black Friday, a day when holiday shopping seasons gets into full swing. Since some retailers' profitability for the year depends on holiday shopping, they have created big sales events for the day in a hope of finishing the year in the black. Many retailers themselves refer to it as Black Friday. However, huge crowds hungry for a deal can also pose a hazard to retail workers at those stores, according to OSHA.

Last year, a worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a large store to take advantage of an after Thanksgiving Day sales event. Citing last year's death and the rise in injuries related to the sales events, OSHA has published crowd control guidelines for retailers to protect workers during major sales events.

OSHA says retailers' plans should include:

  • Having trained security or crowd management personnel or police officers on site.
  • Creating a detailed staffing plan that designates a location for each employee. Based on the size of the crowd expected, determine the number of employees that are needed in various locations to ensure the safety of the event (e.g. near the door entrance and throughout the store).
  • Ensuring that employees are properly trained to manage the event.
  • Providing legible and visible signs that describe entrance locations, store opening times, and other important information such as the location of major sale items.
  • Preparing an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing employees, including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being struck by the crowd, violent acts and fire. Share emergency plan with all local public safety agencies.
  • Training employees in crowd control procedures and the emergency plan. Provide them with an opportunity to practice the special event plan. Include local public safety agencies if appropriate.

OSHA also recommends that retailers prevent additional customers from entering the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level and refrain from blocking or locking exit doors.

"Crowd-related injuries during special retail sales and promotional events have increased during recent years," says Jordan Barab, acting OSHA chief. "Many of these incidents could be prevented, and this fact sheet provides retail employers with guidelines for avoiding injuries during the holiday shopping season."

Source: OSHA's Crowd Control Safety Tips For Retailers

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