As huge sale events become more common and draw increasingly large crowds, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has grown more interested in protecting employees during large events like these. Here’s what you need to know about crowd control and workplace safety.
OSHA is responsible for enforcing health and safety laws that protect employees while on the job, no matter what type of establishment or facility they work in. This means these crowd control guidelines are good not only for retailers holding large sales, but also for event venues, amusement parks, and other businesses that draw large numbers of people. Failure to comply with these guidelines can lead to a citation from OSHA, which can include fines ranging from $5,000 to $70,000. In addition, accidents resulting in a death can lead to potential criminal and other legal penalties. Serious injuries and other incidents can also result in lawsuits, publicity loss, and interruption of business, which is why it’s extremely important to comply with recommendations and manage crowds wisely. So exactly what are the OSHA recommendations? The administration has outlined a series of steps to take long before the event, during the event, and in case of emergencies.
Before the Event
First of all, employees should be properly trained to manage the event and keep the crowd under control. A detailed staffing plan should be created that determines the number of employees needed, as well as the ideal positions and distribution of these employees. For example, a large retailer might need a number of employees near the entrance of the store, as well as other workers scattered throughout the store.If large crowds are anticipated, then the organization should ensure that trained security or crowd management personnel are on site. If no security personnel are available, local police officers can also assist. Fire and police agencies should be contacted well before the event in order that they are aware of the potential for crowds; all local safety requirements should be met, and permits and licenses should be obtained as well. One employee should be designated to contact first responders in case of emergency.An emergency plan should be created that addresses hazards such as overcrowding, stampedes, fire, or even violent behavior. Employees should be thoroughly trained in this plan, receiving an opportunity to practice carrying it out. The emergency plan should also be shared with local agencies.
During the Event
Barricades, ropes lines, and other crowd management devices should be set up well in advance of the first customers arriving. Additionally, the line should not start directly at the entrance to the venue, so that entry can be managed in an orderly fashion and customers can be admitted in smaller groups. Lines should include a number of turns and breaks, to prevent customers pushing from the rear—which can crush employees and those waiting at the front of the line.Employees should be designated to direct incoming customers and explain entrance procedures. Clear communication is important because it prevents crowds from becoming restless or upset. Any updated information should be clearly communicated to customers waiting in line, verbally or in writing through the use of signs or pamphlets. Employees outside the venue should have radios or some other way to communicate with inside employees or even emergency responders. If a building has reached maximum occupancy, no other customers should be admitted.
In an emergency, do not restrict access to exits. Do not lock or block doors. Have first-aid kits and personnel trained to use them onsite. Be prepared to contact first responders, and instruct employees to follow directions from emergency responders, even if it conflicts with company policy. With a few careful preparations, successful crowd control and OSHA compliance can be simple.
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