As holiday shopping gets underway, several major retailers are opening even earlier this year offering the prospect of deep discounts and large crowds to an ever growing number of shoppers.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) notes that 140 million holiday shoppers are likely to take advantage of Thanksgiving weekend deals in stores and online.
Millennials are most eager to shop, with the NRF survey showing 8 in 10 (79.6 percent) of 18-24 year olds will or may shop over the weekend, the highest of any age group.
Much has been written about the risks of online shopping, but for those who still head to the stores, there are dangers there too.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminds us that crowd related injuries can occur during special sales and promotional events. In 2008, a worker at Wal-Mart died after being trampled in a Black Friday stampede.
According to the aptly named blackfridaydeathcount.com, since 2006 there have been seven Black Friday-related fatalities and 90 injuries. As well as stampeding crowds, injuries have occurred as a result of altercations over TVs, road rage over parking spaces, shootings and distracted driving.
For employers and store owners OSHA offers comprehensive tips on how to create a safe shopping experience.
Crowd management planning should begin in advance of events likely to draw large crowds, and crowd management, pre-event setup, and emergency situation management should be part of event planning, OSHA says.
Tips include: hiring additional staff; having trained security or crowd management personnel on site; determining the number of workers needed in different locations to ensure the safety of an event; and preparing an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing workers including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being struck by the crowd, violent acts and fire.
For shoppers too, a personal safety and security plan is a good idea. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) advises not to buy more than you can carry and to plan ahead by taking a friend with you or asking a store employee to help you carry packages to the car. Travelers offers some important tips here.
To all our readers, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!