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OSHA Crowd Control Safety Tips For Retailers

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of celebration but the day-after shopping holiday known as "Black Friday" can be a cause for concern. Shoppers can choose to avoid the rush by shopping on other days but many retailers and employees have no alternative.

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

OSHA has issued guidelines for retailers to improve safety, including planning, pre-event setup, and steps to take in case of an emergency.

Before Black Friday Planning

Employers should take steps before the shopping day to properly train employees, find necessary support staff, and prepare 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 and clear duties of employees at locations like the store entrance and exits. Other preparation options include:

  • Contact police and fire departments to make sure all safety requirements are met and ensure the authorities are aware of the event.
  • Designate specific employees to call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.
  • Provide clear signage to indicate entrances and exits.
  • Clear space to avoid bottlenecks
  • Provide walkie-talkies or radios for employees to more easily communicate on the day of the event

Pre-Black Friday 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 to redeem certain merchandise, where to check out, and where to safely exit the store. Designated employees should be trained to communicate this information to the crowds throughout the day.

Before opening the doors, make the crowds aware of the opening time, group sizes, numbered tickets, total capacity, timed entry, text notification, or whatever the entrance procedures may be.

An alternative to just 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 Black Friday Sales Event

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

When the store is at maximum occupancy, do not allow any additional customers until enough customers leave the store. It is 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), chemical wash stations, and other safety equipment.

After Black Friday Summary

After the event, whether everything went great or there were problems, a review of the day can help prepare for next year. Identify what was done right and what went wrong. Hear from employees about problems they experienced and what could have been more clearly communicated. Implement any recommended changes for future events.

Legal Help for Employers

Employers face a number of legal issues when dealing with employees, 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 the future and respond to emergency legal situations.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified workplace safety attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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