Keys to Crowd Management for Retailers
Perhaps the most well-known retail sales event of the year is Black Friday, the day that immediately follows Thanksgiving Day and is synonymous with deep discounts and unruly crowds. In 2008, the dangerous mob mentality of retail crowds was fully realized when a Wal-mart employee was trampled to death within seconds of the mega-store’s early morning opening.
In the wake of such tragedy, it becomes increasingly important for retail outlets to proactively anticipate and manage crowds, particularly when a holidays, big sales events, or bouts of inclement weather make operations inherently more dangerous. This is not a new responsibility, however.
As early as 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act extends responsibility to employers for making workplaces a safe and healthy environment for employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) further encourages employers to deploy methods of identifying and neutralizing hazards in the workplace, which can include large crowds.
Crowd Management for Retailers: Tips from OSHA
Retailers are encouraged to review the following tips from OSHA on effective crowd management in retail outlets. To make it easier for employers to foresee and prevent dangerous situations, OSHA advises that events be characterized and considered along 4 distinct phases: Event Planning, Event Setup, and Event Execution.
- Hire additional staff to monitor and control areas where larger crowds are expected. Depending on the event, employers or property owners may wish to hire police officers and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to standby in case of emergency.
- Take proactive measures to ensure each employee is properly trained to handle his or her responsibilities during the event.
- Delegate the responsibility of dialing 9-1-1- for emergencies to a specific individual, should an emergency occur.
- Collaborate with in-store managers and other safety specialists to develop an Emergency Plan that details a course of action for all likely emergencies. Emergency Plans should focus on protecting employees from common dangers like overcrowding, being stuck in a crowd, violent acts, and fire.
- Use crowd control measures to encourage crowds to flow in a safe and effective manner. Products to use include barriers, ropes, stanchions, and signs.
- Designate an employee to help approaching customers enter the crowd control queue in a safe and orderly manner.
- Make sure all employees have communication devices (i.e. radios) with fully charged batteries.
- Consider controlling visitor flow by issuing bracelets or tickets that grant entry during a specific time window.
- If there are certain products that can easily be sold online, consider offering a special for those items (i.e. free shipping) to make the sale without requiring customers to visit the storefront.
- Distribute sale items, along with their respective banners/ sales displays, throughout the facility to avoid overcrowding in certain areas.
- Give employees an easy way to enter/exit the facility through special “Employee Only” areas.
- Always alert employees prior to the opening of main doors/ other crowded points of entry.
- Consider aligning police officers or other uniformed personnel along major areas of entry/exit to encourage crowds to remain orderly.
- Communicate with crowds via speakers, bullhorns, or other audible means.
- Be vigilant in monitoring occupancy, and cut-off entrants as soon as occupancy is reached.
- Provide a safe and accessible entrance for individuals with disabilities.
To review this fact sheet in full, visit OSHA® online.
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