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By SafetyCulture Team   |  
November 21st, 2018

Risk is High for Staff and Customers During Black Friday Sales

Reading Time: 2 minutes

After stuffing themselves with turkey and, well, stuffing, on Thanksgiving, millions of Americans roll out of bed, shake off their tryptophan-induced comas bright and early and get in line for the best possible deals on Black Friday. But the search for the best deal can get ugly, and dangerous, for shoppers and workers alike.

Since 2006 10 people have died and a further 111 have been injured in incidents that took place during Black Friday shopping events in the United States. While many of the incidents have involved shoppers getting aggressive with each other, some have ended in tragedy for employees. One case that captured the nation’s attention was the death of Walmart worker in 2008, trampled in a stampede as doors opened to frenzied shoppers.

For retailers, Black Friday is a boon. It kicks off the holiday shopping period, with billions in sales taking place. And while in-store sales may have peaked in 2016 (there was a 4 per cent decrease in 2017, but an 18 per cent increase in online sales) its still an incredibly busy day, requiring a lot of planning to keep the roughly-100 million people who do shop in store moving safely.

Because there’s also a big increase in temporary and seasonal workers as the holiday sales period gets underway, there’s plenty of risk to mitigate around this big-spending day as determined shoppers and inexperienced staff collide.

In 2011, one woman trying to secure herself a discounted game console sprayed fellow shoppers with pepper spray. And while not everyone is going to be that combative on the hunt for a bargain, it’s important to make sure all staff know the correct procedures to keep things moving smoothly throughout a long, extraordinarily busy day.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration says the holiday period can pose risks for employees in the wholesale, transportation and retail industries, as the pressure on the supply chain from start to finish can lead to hazards. OSHA provides detailed guides for employers and employees in each section of the supply chain.

But the advice for retailers on how to manage crowds is some of the most important on this big-spending day.

Before Black Friday employers should:

  • 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.
  • Ensure that workers are properly trained to manage the event.
  • Prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing workers, including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being struck by the crowd, violent acts and fire.
  • Share the emergency plan with all local public safety agencies.
  • Train workers in crowd management procedures and the emergency plan.

The guide provides detailed instructions on what to do on Black Friday to ensure crowd control goes smoothly.

“Retail employees need proper guidance, planning and training from their employers to safely manage the crowds during the busiest shopping day of the year, and throughout the entire season,” Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Rick J. Ruble said in a press release this week.

“The best way to prevent injuries and accidents is to make sure employees are informed and prepared.”

While Black Friday might be one of the busiest days on the retail calendar, with proper planning and thought, it can also be safe for shoppers and employees alike.

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