In an effort to prevent trampling deaths and injuries from occurring in stores offering “doorbuster” holiday sales this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding U.S. retailers to take adequate precautions and be prepared to properly manage crowds that gather in anticipation of major sales events.
Black Friday injuries and deaths have been of particular concern to federal safety regulators since the a Walmart employee was trampled to death in 2008 after he opened the doors early on Black Friday to an anxious crowd. Several others, including a pregnant woman, were injured in the stampede that literally ripped the doors from their hinges.
“The busy shopping season should not put retail workers at risk of being injured or killed,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “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.”
OSHA sent letters to Walmart and other major retailers in addition to retail and fire associations nationwide reminding employers and fire chiefs about the potential hazards presented by large crowds who gather outside retail stores in anticipation of an irresistible sale on popular items, which are often sold in very “limited quantities” to the first people who can grab them.
The agency urged retailers to implement the safety measures it provided in an OSHA fact sheet mailed with the letters in addition to any safety procedures stores may have adopted. OSHA emphasized the importance of maintaining access to exit routes and making sure those exits aren’t blocked.
According to OSHA, at the very minimum, crowd management plans should include:
* On-site trained security personnel or police officers;
* Barricades or rope lines for pedestrians that do not start right in front of the store’s entrance;
* The implementation of crowd control measures well in advance of customers arriving at the store;
* Emergency procedures in place to address potential dangers;
* Methods for explaining approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public;
* Not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level;
* Not blocking or locking exit doors.