In 2008, a worker at a Long Island Wal-Mart died after being trampled in a Black Friday stampede. According to news reports, an "out-of-control" mob of frenzied shoppers smashed through the store's front doors, knocking several employees to the ground and prompting others to climb atop vending machines for their own safety.
With Black Friday sales and the Christmas shopping season just ahead, retailers are being reminded to keep the safety of their employees a top priority – especially those who are temporary and/or young and may lack experience in dealing with crowds.
OSHA has Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers intended to help prevent the kinds of injuries – and worse - that can occur during special sales and promotional events:
- Planning should begin well in advance of events that are likely to draw large crowds.
- 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 entrances and throughout the store).
- Ensure that workers are properly trained to manage the event.
- Contact local fire and police agencies to determine if the event site meets all public safety requirements, and ensure that all permits and licenses are obtained and that local emergency services, including the local police, fire department and hospital, are aware of the event.
- Designate a worker to contact local emergency responders if necessary.
- Designate a store manager to make key decisions as needed during the event.
- Provide legible and visible signs that describe entrance and exit locations, store opening times, and other important information such as the location of major sale items and restrooms.
- Prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing workers, including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being struck by the crowd, violent acts and fire. Share emergency plan with all local public safety agencies.
- Train workers in crowd management procedures and the emergency plan. Provide them with an opportunity to practice the special event plan. Include local public safety agencies if appropriate.
- 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.
- Designate workers to explain approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public, and direct them to lines or entrances.
- Make sure that outside personnel have radios or some other way to communicate with personnel inside the store and emergency responders.
- Consider using mechanisms such as numbered wristbands or tickets to provide the earlier arriving customers with first access to sale items.
- Consider using Internet lottery for “hot” items.
- Locate sale items in different parts of the store to prevent overcrowding in one place.
- Locate shopping carts and other potential obstacles or projectiles inside the store and away from the entrance, not in the parking lot.
- Communicate updated information to customers waiting in line. Have signs and distribute pamphlets showing the location of entrances, and exits, store opening times and location of special sales items within the store.
- Shortly before opening, remind waiting crowds of the entrance process (i.e., limiting entry to small groups, redemption of numbered tickets, etc.).
- 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.
- Use a public address system or bullhorns to manage the entering crowd and to communicate information or problems.
- Position security or crowd managers to the sides of entering (or exiting) public, not in the center of their path.
- Provide crowd and entry management measures at all entrances, including the ones not being used. If possible, use more than one entrance.
- When the store reaches maximum occupancy, do not allow additional customers to enter until the occupancy level drops.
- Provide a safe entrance for people with disabilities. Emergency Situations
- Do not restrict egress, and do not block or lock exit doors.
- Know in advance who to call for emergency medical response.
- Keep first-aid kits and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) available, and have personnel trained in using AEDs and CPR onsite.
- Instruct employees, in the event of an emergency, to follow instructions from authorized first responders, regardless of company rules.
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