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Black Friday Safety: OSHA Laws for Holiday Crowds

Black Friday is an annual retail event that takes place on the day after Thanksgiving. It's known for its massive sales and discounts. Retailers often claim their highest profits of the year. During Black Friday, shoppers flock to stores and online platforms to snag deals on a wide range of items, from electronics to toys.

The excitement of Black Friday shopping can also present safety concerns. As either an employee or a shopper, it's important to know about Black Friday safety risks like large crowds. Retailers are accountable for maintaining a safe shopping environment for shoppers and employees. Read on to learn more.

Black Friday Safety Risks

Black Friday sales bring in millions of consumers across the United States. Many retailers go to great lengths to attract shoppers. Large companies like Walmart and Amazon invest heavily in advertising. They also hire thousands of temporary staff to handle the crowds. 

Because of a shopper's eagerness to find a bargain, crowd management and safety are a concern for many shoppers and retailers. In 2008, a 38-year-old Walmart employee in New York was trampled to death after a stampede of Black Friday shoppers rushed into the store.

Potential Black Friday injuries and safety risks include:

  • Crowd crush or stampedes due to overcrowding
  • Trips and falls caused by crowded aisles or merchandise left on the floor
  • Physical altercations among shoppers over sought-after items
  • Injuries from heavy merchandise falling or being pushed over
  • Strain or sprain injuries to retail employees from handling large volumes of merchandise
  • Traffic accidents in parking lots due to congestion and reckless driving
  • Theft and pickpocketing in crowded stores
  • Fire hazards due to overcrowding or blocked exits
  • Heat exhaustion or dehydration from waiting in long lines outdoors

Excitement and eagerness to get a great deal can be a dangerous combination. 

OSHA Crowd Control Guidelines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued crowd control guidelines for retailers in 2010. These guidelines state that retailers must take measures to ensure the safety of both their customers and employees during high-traffic events like Black Friday sales. OSHA advises retailers to implement crowd management plans that include measures such as:

  • Limiting the number of customers allowed in the store at one time
  • Providing adequate signage to direct foot traffic
  • Ensuring clear emergency exits

In addition, retailers should train their employees on crowd management techniques and emergency procedures to handle unruly crowds and safety hazards. These guidelines aim to prevent injuries and ensure a safe shopping experience for everyone.

Retailer Liability for Black Friday Injuries

Under the theory of premises liability, store owners have a responsibility to keep their premises safe and free from known hazards. Hazards include anything that might cause injury to shoppers. Common injuries that occur on store premises include slip-and-fall accidents, injuries stemming from falling boxes or merchandise, and exposure to toxic chemicals.

In certain instances, a store may be legally responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on its property. Shoppers who are injured on store property may file a claim against the owner of the store for contributing to a person's harm. 

Retail employees injured while working during Black Friday sales have rights under workers' compensation laws. Employers are required to provide compensation for medical expenses and lost wages resulting from workplace injuries, regardless of fault. If an employer fails to provide adequate safety measures or training to employees working during high-traffic sales events like Black Friday, they may be liable for negligence.

Legal Help

If you have been injured during a Black Friday sales event, seeking legal advice from a knowledgeable personal injury attorney is crucial. They can provide guidance on your rights and options under employment law. They can also help you seek compensation for your injuries. 

Reach out to an attorney near you today to learn more. You can also visit FindLaw's section on Workplace Safety for more information.

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