OSHA and the National Retail Federation (NRF) have issued guidelines for retailers to assure the safety of retail store employees and customers during the holiday shopping season.

Guidance from the two organizations, released November 17, is similar.  Both stress planning, hiring additional staff, working with law enforcement and emergency response agencies, and keeping shoppers informed about the availability of merchandise.  A key safety measure is to keep crowds of waiting shoppers away from doors and allowing customers inside in an organized, orderly fashion, Robert Moraca, NRF’s Vice President of Loss Prevention, told Bloomberg BNA.

Injuries have been rare, Moraca said, but when they have occurred, they often take place at a store entrance, not in the line waiting to enter.  However, OSHA has issued citations for past incidents.  In a November 14 letter to retail store executives, OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels reminded them of a 2008 incident in which a worker was trampled to death as shoppers rushed into a store to take advantage of a “Black Friday” sales event.  OSHA cited the retailer. The case is being appealed.

To ease the flow of people into the store, merchants can use line snaking and physical barricades that end away from the entrance or issue numbers or wristbands to ensure that early arrivals do not lose their places in line, Moraca advised.  Other recommendations dealt with managing the expectations of people in line and assuring the safety of security workers and crowd managers.  

For safety inside a store, OSHA and NRF advised that signs and maps should show clearly where to find high-demand items and that goods expected to attract crowds be spread throughout the store.

Stores should be prepared not only to minimize injuries but to respond properly when an incident occurs.