Crowd-related injuries during special retail sales promotions or product launches have increased in recent years as events such as Black Friday or specific product offers to generate a huge increase in footfall.
The risk here is twofold, as an Employer, you have a duty of care to protect your employees and develop a safe working environment.
Should an employee become injured through crushing or violence in the store, you could face an Employers Liability claim under your Shop Insurance policy.
Similarly, as a professional retailer, you also have a duty of care to your customers. If a shopper is injured and it was deemed that you had not provided adequate protection, a claim could be lodged against your Public Liability Insurance.
Employers Need to Provide a Safe and Healthy Environment
Retailers should adopt effective health and safety management tools to identify and eliminate work-related hazards, including those caused by large masses of people during busy shopping times, such as the festive season.
The following guidelines are designed to help you assist your workers in avoiding injuries during a busy shopping season or other crowded events.
Similar to other preventive methods, crowd management planning should begin well in advance of the event or season.
If you believe there is potential for a large crowd, consider using these planning guidelines:
Where large crowds are expected, hire trained security and crowd management personnel or police officers to be on-site.
#2 Staff Plan
Create a detailed staffing plan that designates a location for each employee. Based on the size of the crowd expected, determine the number of employees needed at designated areas. These locations may include entrances, dressing rooms, "hot" merchandise, etc.
#3 Staff Training
Ensure that employees are adequately trained to manage the event. Train all employees on your established crowd management procedures. Provide them with an opportunity to practise the special events plan well ahead of time
#4 Fire & Crowd Safety Certificates
Contact your local fire and police agencies to determine if the event site meets all public safety requirements, as well as ensuring that any permits and licences are obtained.
#5 Safety Coordinator
Designate an employee to contact local emergency personnel in case your event becomes unruly.
Provide signage indicating entrance locations, opening times and other pertinent information.
#7 Emergency Risk Plan
Prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing employees, including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being stuck within a crowd, violence and fires.
#8 First Aid
Keep first aid kits and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) available, and have personnel trained in using AEDs and CPR.
Pre-Event Setup Preparations
- Set up barricades or rope queues for crowd management well in advance of customer arrival. Ensure that the barricade queue does not start right at the entrance of the store, as this will allow for orderly crowd management entry and make it possible to divide crowds into small groups.
- Ensure that barricade queues 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. This is a danger to your customers and employees alike.
- Designate employees to explain the approach and entrance procedures to your arriving customers. Employees should also direct them to queues or entrances.
- Ensure that employees working outside have radios or some other way of communicating with employees working inside. They should also have a way to communicate with emergency personnel if needed.
- Consider using mechanisms, such as numbered wristbands or tickets, for early arriving customers, so there is no fighting about a spot in the queue.
- Consider using an Internet lottery for "hot" items to avoid a huge rush.
- Place shopping trolleys and other potential obstacles or projectiles inside the store and away from the entrance. Do not keep these items in the car park.
- Provide additional public amenities, such as toilets, if necessary.
- Communicate updated information to customers in the queue and distribute pamphlets showing the locations of entrances, exits and special sale items.
- Remind waiting crowds to remain calm shortly before opening your doors.
During Your Sales Event
- Make sure all employees and crowd control personnel are aware that the doors are about to open before they do.
- Staff entrances with uniform guards, your local police or other hired authority personnel.
- Use a public address system or megaphones to manage the entering crowd and to communicate information or problems.
- Position security or crowd managers to the sides of entering/exiting public.
- Provide crowd and entry management personnel at all entrances, including the ones that are not being used. Provide more than one entrance/exit, if possible.
- When your location reaches maximum capacity, do not allow additional customers to enter until the occupancy level decreases.
- Provide a safe entrance for those with disabilities and those pushing small children in prams.
- In an emergency situation, instruct your staff to remain calm, and to slowly escort customers out the door. Also remind employees to follow the instructions of emergency personnel and first responders to reduce the risk of injuries to themselves and customers.
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