Retail stores seem to get more and more crowded each year as the holidays draw near. If that is not enough, the stores now have those special deals with special hours only. In cases like these, crowds and workplace injuries are likely to go hand-in-hand.
Does the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have guidelines for crowd management? OSHA has some very in-depth guidelines and tips for planning, preparing and working special sales events where large crowds of shoppers are expected. Following their guidelines might keep retail stores from workplace injuries, as well as customer lawsuits.
Planning includes things such as hiring additional staff, training workers in crowd control, informing local agencies such as fire and police, and designating people to handle emergency situations. Stores can prepare by setting up barricades for early arrivals and making sure paths are clear and locations set apart for sale areas. They may want to have walkie-talkies for employees. For a full list of other preparation tips, see the OSHA Fact Sheet.
During the event, stores should provide door monitors. Separate door entrances may also help. Employees should be well-informed of what is going on, such as when the doors are being opened. Security guards are helpful, as are bullhorns or speaker systems to inform crowds of information such as “sold out” items and bathroom facilities. Limiting the occupancy allowed in the store at one time may be vital.
Any accidents that workers incur in the workplace will be the responsibility of the store or owner. The employee will be entitled to coverage under the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 states that “employers are responsible for providing their workers with safe and healthy workplaces.” This includes during heavy sales periods as well as during off-season sales periods.
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers,” accessed Nov. 18, 2015