OSHA Guidelines for Retailers on Holiday Shopping and Crowd Management Safety (Updated)

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Seyfarth Synopsis: Employers should prepare for the holiday shopping season and protect their employees from harm and injuries.

As the holiday shopping season approaches, we are again reminding retail and hospitality employers of the importance of taking safety precautions during the holiday season’s major sales events, such as Black Friday.

Holiday shopping has increasingly become associated with violence and hazards.  There has been numerous instances of riots, shootings, and pepper-spray attacks in crowds looking for holiday deals.  In one case, a worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a store to take advantage of a Black Friday sales event.  Events of violence and shooting at malls and retail establishments have become all too common in our society.  Additionally, retail distribution centers that fill customer orders are exceedingly busy at this time of year and often staffed with new and/or temporary workers.  Such increased staffing levels can lead to increased workplace accidents.

Under OSHA’s general duty clause, “employers are responsible for providing a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death.”  To minimize injuries in the workplace during the holiday season, OSHA’s website on Holiday Workplace Safety provides employers with recommendations for crowd management plans and safe practices for retail distribution centers.

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.

Employers should also review workplace violence programs and remind supervisors to keep their eyes open for signs of potential workplace violence issues.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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