OSHA to Retailers: Protect Workers on Black Friday

By Roy Maurer Nov 18, 2014
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is urging retail employers to implement safety measures to prevent workplace injuries during major sales events, including Black Friday.

The busiest shopping day of the year falls on Nov. 28 in 2014, and has been the scene of increasingly dangerous situations in the recent past, as consumers push and shove through crowded spaces to take advantage of holiday sales.

Ever since the Nov. 28, 2008, trampling death of a Wal-Mart employee in Valley Stream, N.Y., during a stampede of Black Friday shoppers, OSHA has released a set of crowd management safety guidelines for retailers at the start of each holiday season.

In letters issued Nov. 12, 2014, to retail trade organizations and chief executive officers of large retail companies, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels explained that crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing tragedies.

“During the hectic shopping season, retail workers should not be put at risk of injury or death,” said Michaels. “With thoughtful planning and implementation of an effective crowd management action plan, and maintaining emergency exits free of obstructions, we all can have a safe and happy holiday season.”

Crowd management planning should begin in advance of events that are likely to draw large crowds, and crowd management, pre-event setup and emergency-situation management should be part of event planning, OSHA advised.

Retailers are encouraged to use the safety resource, Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers, provided in the OSHA correspondence they received.

Each store’s plan should include onsite security guards, barricades for customers waiting to enter the store, crowd and entrance management measures at all entrances, maximum occupancy limits, and emergency medical and evacuation plans.

Michaels specifically addressed maintaining access to exit routes and ensuring that exits are not blocked.

OSHA recommends these safety measures be taken at other major sales events in addition to Black Friday.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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