In 2008, a worker was trampled to death at a Wal-Mart store when a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors to take advantage of an after-Thanksgiving Day Black Friday sales event. OSHA cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management following the Nov. 28, 2008, death of an employee at its Valley Stream, N.Y., store. The worker died of asphyxiation after he was knocked to the ground and trampled by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers who surged into the store.
OSHA's inspection found that the store's employees were exposed to being crushed by the crowd due to the store's failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management principles. This failure includes providing employees with the necessary training and tools to safely manage the large crowd of shoppers.
OSHA recommends that retailers follow certain safeguards to guard against this type of tragedy occurring again.
“Crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and deaths,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “OSHA urges retailers to adopt a crowd management plan during the holiday shopping season that includes a few simple guidelines.”
Crowd management plans should include:
- On-site trained security personnel or police officers.
- Barricades or rope lines for pedestrians that do not start right in front of the store’s entrance.
- Implementing crowd control measures well in advance of customers arriving at the store.
- Emergency procedures in place to address potential dangers.
- Explaining approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.
- Not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level.
- Not blocking or locking exit doors.
OSHA has created a fact sheet outlining these and other safety measures, Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers, and distributed a letter to major retailers about preventing crowd-related injuries.