OSHA Sends Black Friday Safety Recommendations to Retailers
Black Friday Protests at Wal-Mart
Federal labor officials still have made no decision on a request by the world’s largest retailer to stop scheduled protests by a union-backed group on Black Friday outside its stores. Wal-Mart claims the demonstrations organized by OUR Walmart threaten to disrupt its business and intimidate customers and other store workers. OUR Walmart has filed its own claim with the labor board, saying the retailer has attempted to prevent workers from participating in legally protected walkouts. The group is protesting what it says are low wages for Wal-Mart workers, and increases in out-of-pocket costs for their health care.
Issues of Safety
- Thanksgiving Day Fatigue: Requiring employees to work Thanksgiving Day does not mean that they are going to cancel Thanksgiving Dinner for their family so they can sleep. They will just go without sleep, get up earlier and stay awake. Along with this will be feelings of anger (at employers and customers for being the reason that they have to work), depression and guilt (from being away from their families), and despair (because people who are working retail usually have limited options and this economy is not helping).
- Unusual or Extended Shifts: OSHA considers a normal work shift to last a period of no more than eight consecutive hours for five days of the week with at least an eight-hour rest period between shifts. Unusual or extended shifts may interrupt normal rest periods, thereby resulting in fatigue for the worker. Extended periods of fatigue can have physical manifestations, such as headaches, inability to concentrate or suppressed immune system as well as mental and physical stress. The administration recommends that employers "diligently monitor" night shift workers and learn to recognize signs and symptoms of shift-related health effects such as weariness, irritability, lack of concentration, depression and headache. An employer should evaluate employees who present such symptoms and possibly allow the employee to leave the area to seek rest. This is one of OSHA's web pages about unusual or extended shifts (link here).
- Employee Error: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicates that such hazards could potentially lead to employee error and occupational injuries.
- Workplace Violence: "Crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and deaths," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "OSHA urges retailers to adopt a crowd management plan during the holiday shopping season that includes a few simple guidelines. "Workplace violence is more than crowd control; angry customers because of a limited number of sales items, increased stress and anger due to fatigue that may lead to physical confrontations. In 2010, a shopper was arrested outside a Madison, Wis., Toys “R” Us after she allegedly threatened to shoot shoppers who objected to her cutting the line.
- Crushing Injuries: In 2008, roughly 2,000 shoppers stormed a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., trampling an employee to death.
- Slips, Trips, and Falls: People fighting for deals, rushing in the store as well as merchandise strewn about as shoppers "dig" for the best deals will cause slips, trips, and falls.
- Back Injuries: Black Friday is best known for deep discounts on large items: high-definition (big screen) TVs, Barbie ride-on Jeep, and furniture. Shoppers not wanting to injure themselves ask that a store employee move heavy objects, with a shortage of employees, many times employees move large objects by themselves.
- Riots: Stores are trying to incite a frenzy by getting people excited about specials. This "momentum" can easily get away. It is like rolling a snowball down a mountain that causes an avalanche.