In the United States, Pre-Black Friday sales have already started, and retailers look forward to the day after Thanksgiving for one of their biggest days of sales through the entire year.  But for those employees who work for one of these big companies, OSHA is encouraging major retail employers to take precautions to prevent worker injuries.  It’s hard to believe that people can get worked up into such a frenzy to save money, but it happens.  In 2008, a worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a large store to take advantage of an after-thanksgiving Day Black Friday sales event. 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for keeping their workers safe and healthy in their workplace.  OSHA encourages employers to adopt effective safety and health management systems to identify and eliminate work-related hazards, including those caused by large crowds at these types of sales proceedings. 

Crowd control is critical to preventing injuries and deaths.  There must be a crowd management plan.  The following fact sheet from OSHA gives retailers  guidelines for avoiding injuries during the holiday season.  Businesses should have trained security personnel or police officers on-site, set up barricades or rope lines for pedestrians well ahead of customers arriving at the store.  The customers’ line should not begin at the very front of the store entrance, emergency procedures should be ready to address potential dangers, and having security personnel or customer service representatives explain approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public is very important.

(Sounds like we’re getting ready for war!)  Here are some of the guidelines from OSHA, which include planning, pre-event set-up and during the sales event.  Major department stores should have already gone over these or other procedures, but if not, this is a great time to get started.  We begin with Part I:


  • Have trained security or crowd management personnel or police officers on site where large crowds are expected.
  • Have a designated location for each worker.  Determine the number of workers needed in various locations to ensure the safety of the event – both near the entrance and throughout the store.
  • Be sure that workers are properly trained to manage the event.
  • Fire and police agencies should be contacted to ensure that the site meets all public safety requirements, and that all permits and licenses are obtained.  Also, that local emergency services in addition to the previously named ones are aware of this event.
  • Have a designated worker to contact local emergency responders if necessary.
  • Legible and visible signs should be posted that describe entrances, opening times, and other important information such as the location of the major sale items.
  • Prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing workers, including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being struck by the crowd, violent acts, and fire.  Share emergency plan with all local public safety agencies.
  • Workers should be trained in crowd management procedures and the emergency plan.  Provide them with an opportunity to practice the special event plan.  Include local public safety agencies, if appropriate.

We’ll continue with Part II tomorrow: Pre-Event Setup, During Sales Event, and What to do in Emergency Situations.  If more businesses would use these methods, there will be fewer injuries to their employees.

Source: OSHA