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It's that time again: Black Friday! Dangerous for retail workers?

If you work in the retail industry, you are well aware of Black Friday. This day traditionally marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. With so many deals and door busters, people often map out their shopping strategy, taking into account the other holiday shoppers they are sure to run into.

But for retail workers, Black Friday can be a dangerous day, especially with stores opening earlier to attract more customers. Many remember five years ago, when a worker died during a Black Friday rush. That incident triggered much attention that led to safety guidelines and crowd management plans.

In fact, OSHA has provided retailers with fact sheets to help them prepare for the holiday shopping crowds. During a busy day, workers may not be able to take a moment and consider what safety hazards might be around them. OSHA is urging business owners and retailers to have crowd management and exit plans in place before next weekend.

What are some things employers should be thinking about when creating these plans? One thing to consider is whether exits are accessible and unblocked. Customers and workers alike should be able to easily figure out where the nearest exits are without having to move or climb around objects. Another suggestion is to have some sort of crowd control, whether it is with barricades or ropes or even having security at the store.

Businesses should also be mindful of the number of customers who are currently in the store. It can be easy to lose track of the store's occupancy level, but making sure to abide by the maximum occupancy level can also help reduce the risk of customer and worker injury.

This could seem like obvious or even redundant information. But it is never fun starting the holiday season with an injury. Before the craziness begins, make sure you are asking the right questions to determine if your workplace taking steps to keep you safe.

Source: OSHA News Release, "Crowd management measures are critical during major sales events;
US Labor Department's OSHA sends reminder to retail associations" Nov. 18, 2013.

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