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OSHA urges retailers to protect workers during Black Friday sales

It may seem hard to fathom, but Thanksgiving is now less than a week away. While this means time with family and friends, and, of course, a turkey dinner, it also means that the holiday shopping season will soon be in full swing. Accordingly, all of the major retailers are currently busy preparing various sales blitzes designed to capitalize upon the hard-earned dollars of shoppers over the coming weeks.

Chief among these sales are the Black Friday events, which typically involve stores opening doors at incredibly early hours to allow shoppers to take advantage of some rather substantial deals.

While much of the discussion concerning these Black Friday sales inevitably revolves around the goods available and the willingness of so many shoppers to brave the elements and the crowds, it's important to consider that these events actually present an elevated risk of serious and even fatal work injuries to store employees.

If you don't believe it, consider that an employee of one of the bigger chains in the U.S. was trampled to death by a crowd of shoppers after the doors opened on a Black Friday sale back in 2008.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not let retailers forget this tragedy. In fact, the agency has once again sent letters to all of the big box stores here in the U.S. reminding them of the unique workplace dangers created by the presence of an abnormally large volume of shoppers and the need to implement some of the safety measures contained in the OSHA fact sheet.

"The busy shopping season should not put retail workers at risk of being injured or killed," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. "OSHA urges retailers to take the time to adopt a crowd management plan and follow a few simple guidelines to prevent unnecessary harm to retail employees."

Some of the fact sheet's recommendations concerning proper crowd management tactics include:

  • Ensuring that trained security guards or police officers are on-site to help manage the large crowds
  • Creating rope lines or barricades for shoppers that don't originate in front of the store entrance
  • Implementing measures designed to explain to customers how to properly approach and enter the store 
  • Monitoring store capacity to ensure its doesn't exceed its maximum occupancy level

Here's hoping that this coming Black Friday is a safe one ...

Those who suffer debilitating injuries on the job here in Illinois should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney about their rights and their options concerning workers' compensation.

Source: KCSG, "US Labor Department reminds retail stores to take precautions on Black Friday," Nov. 18, 2013 

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