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Black Friday: deals and danger

Black Friday is coming, full of rock-bottom deals that lure enormous crowds of people in a Christmas-shopping frenzy. Those shoppers know as well as anyone that many of the truly great bargains are for only the very first shoppers in the store.

Stores put just a few of the items at the very lowest prices up for grabs. Those jawdropping deals are there to lure shoppers in; after they're gone, people have to either head elsewhere or buy from the remaining items. The strategy works like a charm every first Friday after Thanksgiving. However, every year there are stories of shoppers or store workers injured in the mad rush for bargains.

A few years ago, a store employee at a New York Wal-Mart store was trampled to death as shoppers surged toward good deals.

Now the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released guidelines to help retailers, employees and shoppers enjoy Black Friday safely.

OSHA says it's not their goal to tell retailers exactly how to run their businesses, but rather to encourage them to have plans in place for the onslaught of bargain-hunters.

The day has become something of a social ritual for some people. They enjoy battling and besting the crowds and finding just the right toys, shoes, shirts and other gifts at just the right prices.

Among OSHA's suggestions to retailers:

  • Before shoppers arrive, put up barricades to keep the crowd in one area before opening the doors. Have space in between this area and the doors.
  • Consider offering numbered wristbands to early arrivals so that they can shop before the late arrivals; this cuts down on the incentive for late arrivals to try to push to the front of the line.
  • Have employees equipped with walkie-talkies or phones so they can communicate quickly and easily with each other about problems.
  • Allow customers into the store in small groups. Don't exceed the maximum occupancy of your store.

If retailers follow these guidelines, hopefully workplace accidents and shopper injuries can be kept to an absolute minimum this year.

Source: WALB: "OSHA release Black Friday Guidelines," Sharinda Williams, Nov. 10, 2011

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