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November 4, 2010

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today sent letters to fourteen major retailers stressing the importance of crowd control measures on the upcoming “Black Friday” sales event.

Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, is one of the largest shopping days of the year and marks the beginning of the Christmas and holiday shopping season with huge sales.

The OSHA letter cited the 2008 death of an employee at a Long Island Wal-Mart store. On that Black Friday, a mob of shoppers waiting outside Wal-Mart for the store’s doors to open pushed inside and trampled 34-year-old Wal-Mart employee Jdimytai Damour to death. Four shoppers, including a woman eight months pregnant suffered injuries in the stampede, according to the New York Daily News.

“OSHA strongly encourages retailers to take precautions to prevent worker injuries during the holiday season’s major sales events, or at other events where large crowds may gather,” said Assistant Secretary for OSHA Dr. David Michaels in OSHA’s letter. “OSHA encourages employers to plan for crowd management several weeks, or even months, in advance of sales events that draw large crowds. We recommend that employers and retail store owners adopt a plan that includes, at a minimum, the elements outlined in the fact sheet.”

OSHA sent the letter to CEOs of the following stores: Dillards, Target, Macys, Wal-Mart, JC Penney, Sears, Kohls, Costco, Best Buy, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Toys “R” Us, Apple, IKEA and TJX Companies who operates TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Home Goods and AJ Wright in the U.S.

Along with the letter, OSHA sent its Fact Sheet Crowd Management Safety Tips for Retailers. The fact sheet provides employers with recommended elements for crowd management plans for use during the holiday shopping season, or other events where large crowds may gather. The fact sheet provides employers with recommended elements for crowd management plans, including:

  • Having trained security personnel or police officers on-site,
  • Setting up barricades or rope lines for pedestrians and crowd control well in advance of customers arriving at the store,
  • Making sure that barricades are set up so that the customers’ line does not start right at the entrance of the store,
  • Having in place emergency procedures that address potential dangers,
  • And, having security personnel or customer service representatives explain approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.

In the 2008, Black Friday incident, Wal-Mart was not using the kind of crowd management measures recommended in OSHA’s fact sheet. OHSA fined Wal-Mart $7,000 for the death of Damour that day. The New York Times reported that Wal-Mart has rigorously fought the small fine.

"Crowd-related injuries during special retail sales and promotional events have increased during recent years," Michaels said in the OSHA press release. "Many of these incidents can be prevented by adopting a crowd management plan, and this fact sheet provides retail employers with guidelines for avoiding injuries during the holiday shopping season."

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