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OSHA to Retailers: Protect Workers on Black Friday

By Roy Maurer  11/19/2012
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is encouraging retail employers to take precautions to prevent worker injuries during Black Friday and other major sales events during the holiday season.

The agency sent major retail stores a letter with recommendations on how to keep shoppers and employees safe.

Employee injuries during the holiday season are not uncommon, and fatalities have been reported. OSHA cited Wal-Mart for inadequate crowd management following the Nov. 28, 2008, death of an employee at its Valley Stream, N.Y., store. The worker died of asphyxiation after he was knocked to the ground and trampled by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers who surged into the store. Eleven were injured. The store was not using the type of crowd management measures recommended by OSHA, the agency said.

“Crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and deaths,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Michaels urged retailers to adopt a crowd management plan during the holiday shopping season that includes a few simple guidelines:

  • Have trained security personnel or police officers onsite.
  • Set up barricades or rope lines for pedestrians that do not start right in front of the store’s entrance.
  • Implement crowd control measures well in advance of customers arriving at the store.
  • Put emergency procedures in place to address potential dangers.
  • Explain approach and entrance procedures to shoppers.
  • Do not allow additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level.
  • Do not block or lock exit doors.

OSHA released a fact sheet outlining these and other safety measures.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

Keep Employees Safe on Black Friday, Safety & Security, November 2011

Keep It Safe on Black Friday, Safety & Security, November 2010

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