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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Black Friday OSHA Safe Shopping Guidelines

By Tommy Eden

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on November 12, 2014, sent a letter to Big Box retailers to implement crowd control plans and other safety measures in preparation for Black Friday shoppers.

In November 2008, Jdimytai Damour, a temporary employee at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y. Damour was knocked to the ground and crushed by a crowd of 2,000 shoppers rushing into the store for its "Blitz Friday" sales on the day after Thanksgiving.

OSHA found that the store had failed to implement reasonable and effective crowd management practices fining the store $7,000 which is the maximum penalty for a serious violation under the law.

To prevent a reoccurrence of this tragedy, OSHA sent the November 12th letter to major retailers, industry trade associations and local fire marshals advising them to adopt a crowd control plan to protect employees during the holiday sales season.

Under OSHA guidelines, employers are responsible for providing a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death. OSHA also published a Fact Sheet entitled, "Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers," which contains safety guidelines retail stores may adopt in addition to its own safety procedures. The guidelines are also excellent guidance on crowd control for any large event.

Common Sense Counsel: OSHA recommends that employers planning a large shopping event adopt a plan that includes the following 4 elements (Full Checklist Fact Sheet):

·  Where large crowds are expected, hire additional staff as needed and have trained security or crowd management personnel or police officers on site.
·  Create a detailed staffing plan that designates a location for each worker. Based on the size of the crowd expected, determine the number of workers that are needed in various locations to ensure the safety of the event (e.g., near the door entrances and throughout the store).
·  Ensure that workers are properly trained to manage the event.

Pre-Event Setup:
· Set up barricades or rope lines for crowd management well in advance of customers arriving at the store.
· Make sure that barricades are set up so that the customers' line does not start right at the entrance to the store. This will allow for orderly crowd management entry and make it possible to divide crowds into small groups for the purpose of controlling entrance.
· Ensure that barricade lines have an adequate number of breaks and turns at regular intervals to reduce the risk of customers pushing from the rear and possibly crushing others, including workers.

During the Sales Event:
·  Provide a separate store entrance for staff. Provide door monitors there to prevent crowd entry.
·   Make sure that all employees and crowd control personnel are aware that the doors are about to open.
· Staff entrances with uniformed guards, police or other authorized personnel.

Emergency Situations:
·   Do not restrict egress, and do not block or lock exit doors.
·  Know in advance who to call for emergency medical response.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at or 334-246-2901. Blog at and follow on twitter tommyeden3