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Stay Safe on Black Friday

Ah, Black Friday. The day of rude and exhilarating awakening to the holiday shopping season, fraught with traffic and long lines, anxieties over the best deals and the perfect gifts, and a sense of us versus them as survival instincts take over. For many, it’s a love-hate relationship. Shoppers and retail workers alike want this time to go as smoothly as possible, but with the almost inevitable environment of chaos, conflict and mishaps make their way into the experience.

Though having a successful shopping day or meeting customers’ needs can feel like life or death during a hectic Black Friday, it never actually should be. Unfortunately, however, sometimes it becomes so. Last year alone, seven people were injured and, shockingly, three killed as a direct consequence of Black Friday. Over the years, and not just in the U.S., stampedes, sale items, and especially parking spots have been the cause of serious harm to shoppers and workers.

In the U.S., the problem has gotten so severe that in 2014 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued letters to retail CEOs reminding them of their obligation to employee safety and to take precautions for the intense shopping day. Of course, for employers in all industries to meet their duty of care, they must keep the workplace a safe environment year-round, but it’s important to stay extra vigilant during higher risk periods, such as the holiday season.

Shopper-on-shopper violence, also potentially harmful to retail workers, is certainly something to prepare for and address, however, most Black Friday harm to employees does not actually come from conflict. Less apparent risks, such as misplaced boxes, wet floors, and exhaustion from long hours are far more likely to cause an injury. These risks are potentially trickier to handle, as store tidiness or awareness of one’s body can easily be ignored during high intensity shopping days.

This time of year will test your limits as a retailer to make critical profits, maintain happy customers, and keep employees safe. To balance this is challenging. Despite the high pressure, safety simply cannot afford to be overlooked.

Certainly not everything can be controlled, but preparations can still be made. Below is a list of safety measures that can be taken to minimize danger for employees on one of the best, and busiest, shopping day of the year.

This list has been adopted from a NIOSH publication:

  • Clean up spills. Water being tracked into the store or spilled beverages should be cleaned up immediately, as both workers or shoppers may slip.
  • Check mats. Scan the store’s mats and carpets for any upturned edges that could be tripped on, and either remove or replace them ahead of time.
  • Climb safely. Walking fast in the store is understandable, but bounding up a ladder and racing down with boxes is an easily avoidable risk. Simply slow down and be careful; the customer can wait five extra seconds.
  • Store appropriately. Keep boxes and merchandise in their appropriate places in the storage room or throughout the store. Continuously check for misplaced items during the day.
  • Manage shopper flow. Especially during the store’s opening hours, manage the flow of shoppers by letting in a certain number of people at a time, depending on store size.
  • Take breaks. Overnight and overtime shifts can be hard on employees on any day. Add in the massive amount of high-intensity customers and the experience will take its toll. So, plan in extra breaks and even provide food and drinks to help them make it through. Additionally, encourage workers to keep up awareness of their bodies and to stay in-tune with how their co-workers are doing throughout the day.

People’s safety should be of the utmost importance during the festive holiday season. Increased hazards during Black Friday must be addressed so that shoppers and workers make it home safe and sound—all understandably exhausted from the day.

Explore further support for workers in high-risk environments, including late nights and lone work, with SoloProtect’s solutions at

While the holiday shopping rush is inevitable, retail worker harm does not have to be, so see more tips for crowd control here.

References, (2017, November 20)., (2017, November 20)., (2017, November 20).


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