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November 18, 2013
OSHA urges retailers to protect workers during Black Friday sales; Tips for safe crowd management

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, many retail locations are finalizing plans for the large sales that traditionally mark the start of the holiday shopping season. While retailers are focused on driving traffic to their locations and increasing sales, it’s important to remember to plan for workers’ safety during Black Friday sales.

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To emphasize the importance of implementing worker safety measures during large sale events, last week OSHA issued a press release and sent letters to firefighter and fire marshals associations, retail trade organizations, and chief executive officers of large retail companies urging them to protect both workers and the public during post-Thanksgiving sales.

When large crowds are present, hazards range from being crushed or struck by the crowd to violence, fire, and barriers to exiting during an emergency. In 2008, a retail worker died at the opening of a Black Friday sale after being trampled by a crowd at the entrance to a store. In that case, the company was issued a general duty clause citation and fined $7,000 for failing to implement effective crowd management strategies.

To prevent holiday sales from becoming hazardous to workers, OSHA provides the following tips for crowd management and event planning:

  • Use barricades and/or rope lines to direct crowds, and set them up to allow space between the store entrance and the start of the customers’ line. This will allow for more orderly crowd management.
  • Consider using numbered wristbands, tickets, or Internet lottery for access to sale items.
  • Provide a separate entrance for workers and station door monitors there to prevent crowd entry.
  • Position security or crowd managers to the sides of the entering or exiting public, not in the center of their path.
  • Prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers to workers, including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being struck by the crowd, violence, and fire.
  • Communicate regularly with customers waiting in line to avoid the frustration and impatience that can create dangerous conditions.
  • Train workers on crowd management, safety practices, and emergency procedures. Provide an opportunity for workers to practice the special event plan.
  • Designate certain workers to make key decisions during the event, including contacting emergency responders if necessary.
  • Keep exit routes clear, do not restrict egress, and do not block or lock exit doors.
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