With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, OSHA has reached out to retailers strongly encouraging them to adopt a set of Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers, in addition to their existing safety and health policies and procedures.
Citing the tragic death of a retail employee who was crushed during a stampede at a Black Friday event in 2008, OSHA has urged the adoption of these crowd control protocols as a critical step for employers and store owners to take in ensuring employee safety during the holiday shopping rush, and other events where large crowds may gather. OSHA recently sent letters directly to major retailers, retail trade associations, and fire marshals enclosing its recommended crowd management guidelines and encouraging employers and first responders to establish a plan well ahead of events likely to draw large crowds, such as Black Friday.
Crowd management plans should include, at a minimum:
- Barricades or rope lines that do not start immediately in front of store entrances to manage pedestrian traffic;
- Police officers or other trained security or crowd management personnel on site;
- Communication to shoppers of updated information about the event and the store, such as the location of entrances and exits, store opening and closing times, and the location of hot items within the store;
- Additional staff sufficient to meet the needs of large crowds of customers;
- Crowd management training for all employees to ensure that they understand how to manage the event;
- Prevention of additional shoppers from entering the store when it is at or near its maximum occupancy level;
- Clear and unobstructed pathways to all exit doors, which should be unlocked;
- Emergency procedures in place in case a dangerous situation does arise; and
- Instructions to employees that in the event of an emergency they should follow instructions from first responders regardless of company rules.
If they have not already done so, retailers should begin crowd management planning for Black Friday now. Reach out to local police and other first responders to inform them if large crowds are expected at your stores on Black Friday and coordinate a response plan in case an emergency takes place. Taking time to employ these simple measures will go a long way towards ensuring that employees enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season.