Retail Business Safety Tips for Your Busiest Days

feet walking through a mall

On Black Friday in 2008, a throng of shoppers in search of deals trampled a Wal-Mart stock clerk to death at a Long Island shopping mall. After inadequate crowd management was cited as a cause of the fatality, Wal-Mart agreed to implement new security plans.

This tragic case (and many others like it across the country) highlights the importance of drafting and implementing a retail business safety plan. If your store struggles with high-volume days, simple safety tips can help you create a smoother shopping experience for both your customers and employees.

Take Precautions

Although your brick-and-mortar store can't control shoppers' behavior, you can be held responsible for their actions. If you plan ahead properly, it's possible to protect your customers and yourself — even on the busiest of days.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthy workplaces for their employees. You are responsible for eliminating work-related hazards, including those that result from large crowds at retail sales events.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) instructs employers to take the following precautions for effective crowd management:

  • Hire additional staff as needed.
  • Train employees, security, crowd management personnel or police officers on site.
  • Create a detailed staffing plan.
  • Contact local fire and police agencies to determine if the site meets public safety requirements.
  • Use radio communication.
  • Locate sale items in dedicated parts of the store to avoid overcrowding.

What to Do When Foot Traffic Is Heavy

If you are expecting a big crowd of shoppers, you will need to work to provide a seamless shopping experience.

For example, if you plan to sell a limited-edition product (like sneakers) you may need to acquire barricades, crowd control stanchions and ropes in advance. Simple precautions like these can help prevent an incident that could be damaging to your store. You may also want to consider making a separate entrance available for employees, so they're able to work through the duration of the sales event.

OSHA recommends placing an emphasis on staff communication, especially at the time when doors are opened to shoppers. For example, if you communicate updated information to customers, you can avoid the type of confusion that could cause shoppers to rush a door.

Before the special sales day, you may also affix extra signage to direct new customers on where to go to make purchases. Finally, have a dedicated staff member — or members — let customers enter slowly, to limit the chances of a stampede.

Addressing Emergency Situations

You should also anticipate worst-case scenarios, like customers fighting over the "it" toy of the holiday season. Follow these OSHA retail business safety tips to prepare for an emergency situation:

  • Keep exits clear at all times.
  • Maintain a current (and accessible) first-aid kit.
  • Have an automated external defibrillator at the ready.
  • Instruct employees how to comply with first responders.

As a retailer, busy shopping days can make your year. But, the added crowds may place additional pressure on your organization. Whether you operate a big chain or several small stores, these quick safety tips can help you provide the shopping experience your customers deserve.