Black Friday. I use to avoid it like the plague. Then, my cousins started to request items like trampolines and PlayStations. A dutiful niece, I began to stand in line until the wee hours of the morning, holding onto my sanity with one hand and a life-size Barbie Dreamhouse with the other.
Speaking from personal experience, Black Friday can be terrifying. Massive crowds and super savings often result in chaos and potential injury to customers. But, safety risks are not limited to the bargain shoppers. Businesses too face challenges to ensure that their employees are kept safe during holiday shopping. To assist employers in this process, last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration provided advice to retail employers, urging them to implement safety measures to prevent workplace injuries on Black Friday. As explained by David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor of OSHA: “During the hectic shopping season, retail workers should not be put at risk of injury or death. OSHA urges retailers to take the time to adopt a crowd management plan and follow a few simple guidelines to prevent unnecessary harm to retail employees.”
Among other precautions, OSHA advises employers to:
- Hire on-site trained security personnel or police officers to assist with crowd management
- Use barricades or rope lines to manage pedestrians and ensure that store entrances remain clear
- Implement crowd control measures well in advance of customers arriving at the store
- Adopt emergency procedures for responding to potential dangers
- Prohibit additional customers from entering the store once the establishment reaches maximum capacity
- Designate a point person to make key decisions during the shopping event
- Properly train employees in anticipation of the event to limit occurrences of workplace injuries
For a full list of OSHA’s recommendations, click here.
Tragic consequences may result if proper precautions are not taken by employers. In 2008, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death as approximately 2,000 shoppers flooded into the New York store. OSHA fined Wal-Mart $7000 for its failure to protect this employee from the crowd of shoppers. Although Wal-Mart challenged the fine, it was upheld in 2011 by an Administrative Law Judge. In response, Wal-Mart hired an expert team to review crowd management protocols and help the retailer develop a plan for handling crowd control in the future.
While Black Friday precautions are of particular importance to retail businesses, the Act itself applies to most private sector employers and their workers. Under OSHA, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace to employees. Specifically, OSHA sets and enforces certain guidelines for employers to ensure that employees are adequately educated and training on preventing workplace injuries. If your business does not have policies in place governing workplace safety, please contact me for information to help minimize regulatory and legal vulnerability and ensure that your employees are adequately protected. Thompson Burton can also assist employers in training employees on OSHA related policies and procedures.
In the meantime, stay safe out there. I’ll see you at the store.