Crowd-related injuries during special retail sales and promotional events have increased during recent years, both as certain products have become more popular and as people have tightened their budgets. Unfortunately, stories about crowd-related injuries and fatalities make the news every year.
OSHA requires employers to provide employees with a safe and healthy workplace. If your facility anticipates a large crowd during the busy holiday season, consider the following planning guidelines:
- Hire trained security and crowd management personnel or police officers to be onsite. Be sure to verify their professional liability, general liability, workers’ compensation and umbrella coverage.
- Create a detailed staffing plan that designates a location for each employee. Based on the size of the crowd expected, determine the number of employees that are needed at designated locations like entrances, dressing rooms and near popular merchandise.
- Contact your local fire and police agencies to determine if the event site meets public safety requirements. Also ensure that permits and licenses are obtained and that local emergency personnel are aware that the event is occurring.
- Designate an employee to contact your local emergency personnel in the event that your event becomes unruly.
- Post legible and visible signs that provide entrance locations, store opening times and other pertinent information for customers.
- Prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing employees, including overcrowding, crowd-crushing, being stuck within a crowd, violence and fires. Share the emergency plan with your local public safety agencies.
- Practice the special events plan with employees well ahead of time. Consider also including your local public safety agencies, if necessary.
- Keep first aid kits and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) available, and have personnel trained in using AEDs and CPR.
Pre-Event Set Up PreparationsAfter you’ve made adequate preparations for your sales event, use these strategies to set up your facility:
- Put up barricades or rope lines for crowd management before customers arrive. Don’t start barricade lines right at the entrance of the store, as this will allow for orderly crowd management entry and make it possible to divide crowds into small groups.
- Ensure that barricade lines have an adequate number of breaks and turns at regular intervals to reduce the risk of customers pushing from the rear and possibly crushing others. This is a danger to your customers and employees alike.
- Designate employees to explain approach and entrance procedures to your arriving customers. Employees should also direct them to lines or entrances.
- Give employees working outside radios or some other way of communicating with employees working inside. They should also have a way to communicate with emergency personnel, if needed.
- Consider using mechanisms, such as numbered wristbands or tickets, for early arriving customers so there’s no fighting about a spot in line.
- Consider using an Internet lottery for popular items to avoid a huge rush.
- Place shopping carts and other potential obstacles or projectiles inside the store and away from the entrance. Do not keep these items in the parking lot.
- Provide additional public amenities (e.g., toilets and sinks) if necessary.
- Communicate updated information to customers waiting in line and distribute pamphlets showing the locations of entrances, exits and special sale items.
- Remind waiting crowds to remain calm shortly before opening your doors.
During Your Sales EventDuring your sales event, be sure to pay attention to your employees and customers at all times, and keep the following in mind:
- Make sure all employees and crowd control personnel are aware that the doors are about to open before they do.
- Use a public address system or bullhorns to manage the entering crowd and to communicate information or problems.
- Position security or crowd managers to the sides of entering and exiting pedestrians, including doors that aren’t being used. Provide more than one entrance and exit, if possible.
- When your location reaches maximum capacity, don’t allow additional customers to enter until the occupancy level decreases.
- Provide a safe entrance for those with disabilities and those pushing small children in strollers.
Insurance for Employee and Customer Claims
If an incident happens despite your preparation work, two types of commercial insurance policies can be triggered depending on who makes the claim. Your workers’ compensation insurance can help cover the cost of injury or illness to your employees. Your general liability insurance can help cover the cost of bodily injury or property damage to your customers on your premises. Contact our business insurance experts to make sure you have the right coverage in place.