By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

OSHA’s Assistant Secretary David Michaels has just “reminded” the chief executive officers and retail trade associations that it is “critical … to take safety precautions to protect workers who may be injured during the holiday season’s major sales events, such as Black Friday sales.”

Holiday shopping has increasingly become associated with violence and hazards. At one large national chain store in previous years “crowds who came looking for holiday deals came face-to-face with riots, shootings, and pepper-spray attacks”. CNN has noted that “violence marred Black Friday shopping in at least seven states, including California, where police say a woman doused fellow shoppers with pepper spray in a bid to snag a discounted video game console.”

In another  incident a worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a big box store to take advantage of a Black Friday sales event. According to OSHA the store was not using the crowd management measures recommended in OSHA’s fact sheet – Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers, which provides employers with recommended elements for crowd management plans.

Michaels pointed out in his reminder that under the federal law “employers are responsible for providing a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death.

Retailers are advised to review and implement the OSHA suggestions for crowd management. Adopting, implementing, and training store employees on the crowd management plan will both lessen the risk of employee and shopper incidents, and will assist the employer in fending off potential OSHA enforcement proceedings, should an accident occur.