Retail is not typically considered a dangerous occupation. However, the holiday season draws much larger crowds than employees are used to managing. In fact, Black Friday has become such an occupational health risk, that a website called blackfridaydeathcount.com was established to track the injuries and fatalities associated with this American shopping event. The site reports that since 2006, Black Friday has claimed 7 deaths and 90 injuries; this includes both workers and patrons. A November 2012 US News & World Report article summarized some of the worst of the mayhem, but 2013 and 2014 have also resulted in nearly 20 injuries and at least 1 death. Not the best news for spreading the Holiday Cheers—but news nonetheless.
To help retailers adopt a Crowd Management Plan, OSHA developed Crowd Safety Guidelines for Retailers. Consider some of the highlights.
- Rethink your staffing strategy. Employers often create staffing schedules based on customer needs. However, it's just as important to think about the safety needs of the store. It may be necessary to have additional staff whose sole purpose is crowd management or security. Designate managers authorized to make important safety decisions during the event or call emergency services if needed. Create a plan that addresses specific steps to be taken by employees if the crowd gets out of control or a violent act occurs. Practice procedures during training sessions.
- Set up logistics ahead of time. Think carefully about how customers will enter the stores, search and find sale items, and then check out. Set up barricades, ropes and clearly visable signage ahead of time to manage the flow at check-out. Have employees at the entrance to direct customers and explain the entrance process. Implement a way for employees in different parts of the store to communicate, such as hand-held radios. Consider what items will be in the highest demand when setting up the store. Place "hot" items in different parts of the store to avoid overcrowding. Consider using special tickets or other ways to identify customers who arrived first and who qualify for special promotions. Utilizing the Internet to provide "first come, first serve" specials is a safe way to distribute special tickets.
- Remember laws and regulations. Stores do have maximum capacities. Have a plan in place to communicate with customers and employees or security guards when the store has reached capacity. Customers will have to wait until capacity drops. Remember to provide a safe entrance path for customers with disabilities. Be sure your event meets all safety requirements and that all permits and licenses are in place.
Keep your employees safe during the biggest shopping season of the year. Black Friday has passed, but shoppers will not slow down until after the first of the year. Emilcott works with companies across all industries, ensuring they meet health and safety regulations—we have been assisting our retail and entertainment clients for over 25 years.
Keep the Holidays Safe for everyone!