OSHA urges caution, crowd management planning for retailers on Black Friday

Hordes of shoppers will be heading out to their favorite stores on Black Friday, and every employee should be given proper safety training in advance.

We are just a few short days away from the biggest shopping day of the year. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday and it features some of the largest savings available to consumers.

Massive discounts on high definition TVs, laptop and tablet computers, household appliances and more attract droves of deal-seeking shoppers, many of whom start lining up outside retail stores before the sun comes up.

Crowds on this day are known to be energetic and, in some cases, overly enthusiastic. This leads to a number of safety issues that businesses must keep in mind when preparing for the surge of consumers flooding their stores.

While the retail business is not one that people would typically think of as dangerous, and the holidays are considered to be a jovial time of year, the safety risks are real. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a Wal-Mart employee in Valley Stream, New York was trampled to death after being knocked over by an unruly crowd pushing its way through the doors on Black Friday in 2008.

"Crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and deaths," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, in a statement. "OSHA urges retailers to adopt a crowd management plan during the holiday shopping season that includes a few simple guidelines."

These guidelines include the use of barricades or rope lines that do not start immediately in front of the building's doors, having emergency procedures in place in advance and paying attention to maximum occupancy levels.

Business owners can ensure that their sales numbers on Black Friday are high while risk to employees remains low by providing everyone with the proper training prior to opening their doors. Using training tracking software and setting up a training calendar well in advance of the big day can help them to prepare all team members for one of the busiest times of the year.


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