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OSHA Crowd Control Safety Tips for Retailers

While the holiday season marks a time of celebration, high-traffic sales events can raise safety concerns for retail employers and employees. Shoppers can visit on alternative days to avoid the rush. But for many retail establishments and their employees, this may not be a viable option.

More than 100 people in the United States have been injured in Black Friday sales incidents, including a dozen fatalities. In response, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created crowd control safety guidelines. These guidelines aim to help retail store owners reduce the risk of work-related injuries.

Retail workers should be aware of their legal protections during big sale events. By understanding OSHA's guidelines, employees can gauge whether their workplace follows the recommended safety protocols.

For more information, visit OSHA's website at

Planning for a Big Sale

Employers should take steps before the big shopping day to properly train employees. This includes finding necessary support staff and preparing for large crowds. When a retailer expects large crowds, they may be able to have trained security personnel or law enforcement on site.

Employee training includes awareness of crowd management procedures, emergency plans, and practice test scenarios. A detailed staffing plan should ensure there are enough employees to prepare for a safe event. Employees should be clear on their duties and location within the store. Other preparation options include:

  • Contacting police and fire departments to make sure all safety requirements are met and ensuring the authorities are aware of the event
  • Designating specific employees to call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency
  • Providing clear signage to indicate entrances and exits
  • Clearing space to avoid bottlenecks
  • Providing radios for employees to communicate more easily on the day of the event

Pre-Sale Setup

Before the event, the employer should make sure everything is set up to allow for extra time to make changes based on the crowd size. This may include setting up barriers, rope lines, or waiting areas. Leave space between the entrance to the store and the area where customers can line up.

The store may also want to provide a map to prepare shoppers for where they can go in the store. The map should include where to redeem certain merchandise, where to check out, and where to exit the store safely. Employees should be trained to communicate this information to the crowds throughout the day.

Before opening the doors, make the crowds aware of details like:

  • Opening time
  • Group sizes
  • Numbered tickets
  • Total capacity
  • Text notification
  • Entrance procedures

An alternative to opening the store up to the crowds is to provide certain items at certain times of the day, provide a lottery for entry, numbered wristbands, or sell certain items online only, to be picked up at a later date.

During the Big Sales Event

During the big day, gather employees for a last-minute reminder on the day's plans, emergency procedures, and the store's opening time. The employer may consider using a bullhorn or public address system to provide information to waiting customers. If possible, use multiple entrances and exits to reduce crowding.

When the store is at maximum occupancy, don't allow any additional customers until enough customers leave the store. It's important to maintain access for people with disabilities, including clear entries, aisles that are wide enough to pass, and accessible service counters.

What To Do in an Emergency

If something goes wrong on the day of the event, be prepared to react timely and safely. Do not block exit doors or emergency exits. Make sure designated workers are responsible for contacting emergency medical responders. Have employees aware of the location of first aid kits, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), fire extinguishers, and other safety equipment.

Protections for Retail Employees

Employers are legally obligated to adhere to OSHA standards. This includes implementing crowd control measures, thorough planning, and effective emergency response protocols. Employees have the right to expect their place of employment to meet these safety standards. This helps protect them from potential hazards associated with substantial sales events.

In the event of workplace injuries, employees have recourse through workers' compensation, ensuring financial support and medical assistance. Serious injuries, particularly those incurred during big sales events, are covered under these protections. Regular OSHA inspections further ensure ongoing compliance. These inspections offer an additional layer of protection for retail workers engaged in demanding sales events.

Legal Help

Both employers and employees face many legal issues when dealing with customers and changing employment regulations. If you need help with an employment issue, find an employment lawyer in your area. An experienced attorney can help you plan for workplace safety and health. They can help you respond to emergency legal situations during big sales events.

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