Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season are a very busy time in the retail industry. Stores aim to bring in as many customers as possible, so many establishments offer doorbuster deals and other specials on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This Friday, dubbed Black Friday, is generally the busiest day of the year. Unfortunately, it is also a high-risk day for employees who face a significant threat of injury when shoppers mob their stores looking for deals.
Employers who wish to avoid workplace accidents and resulting workers' compensation claims need to be aware of the very real dangers Black Friday and the rest of the crowded holiday shopping season can present to employees. There are steps to take to help mitigate the risk, and an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fact sheet offers some good guidance to employers aiming to prevent tragic workplace accidents over the holidays.
Preventing Workplace Accidents Due to Holiday Crowds
OSHA advises employers to take many different steps to help keep retail workers safe. Some tips include:
- Creating an advance plan to deal with expected crowds.
- Hiring additional staff if necessary when expecting large amounts of people in a store.
- Having trained security present during special events like Black Friday sales.
- Providing proper training to workers in advance of special events so they know how to manage crowds and stay safe.
- Speaking with local fire departments and police departments to alert them to special events and to find out public safety requirements.
- Designating a worker who will be in charge of contacting the police or other first responders if an event gets out of hand, and designated a store manager who will make decisions as-needed during the event to ensure safety.
- Posting clear signs in the store showing where exits are, what time stores open, where restrooms are, and where sale items are located.
- Setting up barricades or rope lines in advance of customers arriving so crowds can remain orderly. Make sure the barricades have turns and breaks at regular intervals to avoid a stampede or crushing injuries.
- Designating an employee who can explain entrance and exit procedures to members of the public who arrive at the store.
- Putting personnel outside of the store to monitor crowds and providing a way for those who are outside to communicate with people who are inside.
- Using tickets or numbered wristbands to guarantee access to doorbuster items to avoid stampedes.
- Spreading sale items to different locations around the store so one particular area of the store does not become overcrowded.
- Providing separate entrances and exits for staff during crowded events and providing a safe place for people with disabilities to enter and exit.
- Using some type of public address system to communicate with assembled crowds and inform them of policies and procedures.
By following these tips, hopefully employers can do their part to help ensure retail workers are able to stay safe during the holiday shopping rush.