Avoid Becoming a Black Friday Horror Story
During a Black Friday incident in 2008, a seasonal Walmart employee in New York was trampled to death by a mob of shoppers. Jdimytai Damour, a 6-foot-5 security worker, was blocking the doors from the increasingly rowdy crowd when the shoppers pushed the doors down, crushing Damour in the process.
The term “Black Friday” was invented by Philadelphia police officers in the 1950s, referring to the traffic jams and pedestrian congestion caused by shoppers during the sales events. Now stores use the term to reference their finances moving from the red and into the black, but the crowds continue to grow every year. And with the growth comes the increasing risk of injuries.
The risk of injury on Black Friday is no secret. There’s even a website that’s kept track of the fatalities and injuries on Black Friday since 2006. In 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent letters to major retailers and retail associations asking employers to take precautions to prevent workplace injuries during major sales events, including Black Friday. OSHA created a fact sheet, “Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers,” that retailers are encouraged to follow.
To ensure that your employees and customers are safe on this busy shopping day, have a plan ready for Black Friday.
Before your doors open
Determine how big of a crowd you expect, what you think the flow of traffic will look like throughout the day, and what parts of the store you think will have the most traffic. Staffing decisions should be based off these expectations. Make sure you have enough staff members scheduled for the event, including additional security and police officers if necessary.
Designation is key. While covering the whole store is important, it’s best to assign a certain spot for each employee to ensure that key areas are covered. Use large, prominently placed signs to designate entrances, exits, shopping carts, and checkout lines. To avoid overcrowding in one area, allocate big sales items to different parts of the store.
The number one way to prevent injuries on Black Friday is to train your employees. Don’t just hand them a manual and expect them to be prepared for crowd management. Set up specific meetings in advance to cover crowd management procedures, emergency plans, staff designations, potential dangers, and other specifics for your company. If possible, practice these procedures before the big day. Hands-on training is essential to being prepared for Black Friday crowds, especially for companies that rely on seasonal employees during this busy time.
During the Black Friday event
Have a separate entrance for staff, and make sure each employee is in the correct area before opening the doors. Provide warnings as it gets closer to opening time, and especially when the doors are about to be opened. Have someone assigned to communicating entrance procedures to the growing crowd prior to opening. It may also be a good idea to instruct any awaiting crowds of the proper procedures and where coveted items are in the store to prevent a mad rush.
Have someone keep track of the number of people coming in and out of the building. Don’t let more customers in than the occupancy level allows. An overflow of customers can create a fire hazard, prompting a visit from the fire marshal and even shutting down the store.
Managers should be communicating regularly with employees to make sure things are going well. Provide radios or other devices to make communication easier.
Don’t let the risk of injury on Black Friday darken the holiday season. Follow safety guidelines to keep your workforce safe and healthy.