Every year it seems like Christmas shopping season kicks off earlier and earlier. When I went to pick up Halloween candy last month, I could have sworn there were more candy canes than candy corn. (Much to my dismay since I’m probably one of the only people on the planet who actually likes candy corn. I should have bought some anyway just to confuse trick-or-treaters.) But despite retailers’ seeming desire to start the Christmas shopping season in the summer, the traditional beginning of the season is still the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday.
Unfortunately in recent years, Black Friday has come to stand less for the effect is has on retail balance sheets and more for the incidents of tragedy that have befallen shoppers caught up in the buying frenzy. Reports of injuries, tramplings and worse have become all too common. One of the most infamous incidents occurred two years ago when a seasonal worker at a Valley Stream, New York Walmart was trampled to death after shoppers broke down the doors to the store in their rabid hunt for bargains.
This year, in an effort to prevent another tragedy OSHA has sent a letter to the CEOs of 14 national retailers, including Walmart, Target, Macy’s and Best Buy, encouraging them to take proper precautions to protect the safety of workers and customers. OSHA also included a fact sheet entitled, “Crowd Management Safety Tips for Retailers.”
OSHA has prepared these guidelines to help employers and store owners avoid injuries during the holiday shopping season, or other events where large crowds may gather. Crowd management planning should begin in advance of events that are likely to draw large crowds, and crowd management, pre-event setup, and emergency situation management should be part of event planning.
OSHA tips concern the proper training of workers, suggestions for the use of barricades to control the flow of crowds and the importance of communication with customers, employees and security personnel.
The National Retail Federation expects that 138 million shoppers will head out to the stores on Black Friday this year, up from the 134 million that had planned to go out last year. It’s bound to be chaotic but let’s make sure that the holiday season kicks off safely.
And if you want to pick me up something nice, I won’t mind.
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