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Labor officials advise retailers on keeping workers safe during Black Friday


The Obama administration's Occupational Safety & Health Administration this week offered several tips for retailers looking to keep their workers safe on Black Friday, that day of frenzied shopping that happens immediately after Thanksgiving.

OSHA has released a set of guidelines that remind retailers to plan ahead for large crowds, prepare for emergencies, and train their workers in crowd management procedures. Click the image below to read the letter:

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Among other things, it calls for stores to set up barricades or rope lines to handle crows, and to make sure they twist around enough to slow down a mob.

"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, including workers," it said.

It warns that employees should be told when the doors are opening, and not to have security guards stand in the open doorway, where the people will be rushing in.

"Make sure that all employees and crowd control personnel are aware that the doors are about to open," it said. "Position security or crowd managers to the sides of entering (or exiting) public, not in the center of their path."

It also recommended spreading out items on sale, to preventing overcrowding in one part of the store. And, stores should be mindful of their capacity.

"When the store reaches maximum occupancy, do not allow additional customers to enter until the occupancy level drops," it said.

OSHA sent a letter to major retailers last week reminding them that a worker died in 2008 after being trampled by a Black Friday crowd. That letter reminded retailers that under the 1970 law that created OSHA, companies have a duty to keep workers safe.

"Under the federal law (the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970) which created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers are responsible for providing a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death," wrote David Michaels, assistant secretary for Occupational Safety and Health at the Department of Labor.

"With thoughtful planning and implementation of an effective crowd management action plan and maintaining emergency exits free of obstructions, we all can have a safe and happy holiday season," he said.

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