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What Should Retailers Do to Protect Workers on Black Friday?

November 24, 2021
retail workers

Black Friday is always a hectic day for shoppers and retailers alike. However, retail workers are bracing themselves for a particularly busy Black Friday this year, compared with a year ago when so many consumers opted to avoid in-store shopping and purchase their gifts online instead. From the crowds of aggressive shoppers and people who refuse to follow a store’s mask requirements to car accidents, vandalism, and crimes that take place in parking lots, there are a number of Black Friday-related safety hazards that compromise the health and safety of retail employees. However, if retailers take proactive steps to prepare employees for the influx of shoppers and ensure that their safety is a top priority, they can make the Black Friday shopping experience as stress-free as possible for shoppers and employees alike. If you are a retail worker and you are injured on the job while working on Black Friday, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer experienced in workers’ compensation as soon as possible.

What Safety Risks Do Retail Workers Face on Black Friday?

Unfortunately, COVID-19 remains a serious health issue, and retail workers will be exposed to thousands of shoppers on Black Friday, some of whom have not been vaccinated. Although some stores require all customers to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status, others only require unvaccinated customers to wear a mask in the store. However, stores do not generally require customers to show proof of vaccination, so there is no way to know if a customer who is not wearing a mask is unvaccinated. When the stores are extremely crowded and a percentage of the shoppers are not vaccinated and unmasked, it exposes the other shoppers and the employees to COVID-19.  Retail workers who are expected to enforce mask requirements are often met with rude responses, or a refusal to wear the mask.

Employees who are not properly trained are at an increased risk of suffering a workplace injury, particularly on Black Friday when the stores are extremely busy. For example, if a worker is responsible for ensuring that inventory is restocked, but he or she was not trained on how to safely lift heavy merchandise, this can lead to musculoskeletal injuries. In addition, if the worker needs to use a ladder to reach the merchandise, but he or she did not receive the required training on how to carry, set up or use a ladder, it can result in a serious fall injury.

Another common safety issue that retail workers face is unruly customers who become aggressive and even violent. Unfortunately, there are many examples of Black Friday shopping sprees that have gone horribly wrong, and it is the employer’s responsibility to protect workers from this type of behavior.

What Are Black Friday-Related Injuries that Affect Retail Employees?

When employees are stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed by crowds of Black Friday shoppers, they are more likely to become distracted or take shortcuts when it comes to safety. The following are examples of some of the common workplace hazards that retail workers face, particularly during the busy holiday shopping season:

  • Overexertion: Oftentimes, retail workers are subjected to injuries caused by repetitive motions or pushing themselves too hard. This is very common for retail employees who work on Black Friday and during the busy holiday shopping season. Examples of overexertion injuries include tendinitis, joint pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Slip and fall injuries: In 2018, there were approximately 34,000 slip and fall injuries. Many of these injuries are caused by spilled liquids, loose rugs or floor mats, clutter or debris on the ground, snow and ice, or poor lighting.
  • Improper lifting: Employees are often required to move heavy objects such as electronics and other larger items. There are safe lifting techniques that can help prevent injuries, but if these are not used or the employee has not been properly trained, it can result in strains, sprains, and other injuries.
  • Struck by objects: If an object falls from a shelf or an elevated surface, it can hit a worker who is standing in the vicinity. Depending on how heavy the object is, and whether it has sharp edges, this can cause very serious injuries, including cuts and lacerations, broken bones, and head injuries.
  • Improper handling of sharp objects: Retail workers are often responsible for opening large boxes of merchandise using a box cutter. These are extremely sharp, and if they are not used properly, they can cause serious cuts and lacerations.
  • Workplace violence: This is less common throughout the year, but on Black Friday, shoppers can become aggressive, unruly, and even violent toward workers if they do not secure the deal they wanted or the store runs out of inventory.

What Should My Employer Do to Keep Workers Safe on Black Friday?

Black Friday may be the busiest shopping day of the year when it comes to in-person shopping. To prepare for this consumer event, there are a number of things that retail employers can do to protect employees and provide a work environment that is safe. Preparing for Black Friday starts days before the event and continues for days after Black Friday when there is often an increased number of returns to process. The following are steps employers should take to protect workers during the hectic Black Friday shopping event:

  • Manage the schedule. In the days leading up to Black Friday, employers should set the schedule well in advance and make sure that all employees are given enough shifts so that they are prepared for Black Friday, but not too many shifts so that they become burnt out. When creating the schedule, employers should also build in time for meal breaks. The employer should encourage workers to take these breaks rather than work through them just because it is busy.
  • Hire seasonal workers. If the current number of employees is not enough to manage the demand of Black Friday, employers should consider hiring additional workers. This will ensure that there are enough workers to meet the needs of the customers. In addition, if an employee calls in sick or needs to take the day off for personal reasons, the added staff can ensure that those shifts are covered.
  • Set clear expectations. Employers must provide clear expectations of what is expected of employees, including how to request a day off, whether employees are eligible for overtime pay, scheduling issues, and how to handle customer issues.
  • Prepare inventory. Supplies and inventory should be ordered well in advance so that it arrives in plenty of time for employees to organize it and set it out for customers.
  • Train employees. In addition to training workers on the basics of retail, including how to use the cash register, how to display merchandise, and how to handle a disgruntled customer, employees should also know what to do if there is an altercation or a fight in the store. In addition, employees should have a clear understanding of current COVID-19 protocols.
  • Keep employees in the loop about the latest promotions. Black Friday is known for having major sales on a wide range of products. Employers should make sure that employees know which products are on sale, how long the promotion lasts, and whether the sale can be bundled with other deals.
  • Show appreciation. When employees feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work, they are less likely to become stressed and overwhelmed. Even a small gesture such as a personalized mug or a gift card can go a long way in making an employee feel valued.
  • Prepare for post-Black Friday returns. Once people get home after their Black Friday shopping spree, they may realize that they do not want to keep all the items they purchased. Retailers should prepare employees for a spike in returns in the days following Black Friday. Make sure that there are extra managers on staff to help with returns if the customer does not have a receipt.
  • Set up crowd control tactics. Crowd control management is very important during Black Friday, particularly in stores where a much sought-after item is sold. To prevent a crowd from becoming unruly, employers should train staff on effective ways to manage crowds and what to do if the situation gets out of control, including notifying the police.
  • Set up video surveillance. This is a great way to spot shoplifters, but it is also an effective way to identify a shopper who is acting aggressively or is becoming violent toward an employee.

Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP, Represent Retail Workers Injured on Black Friday

If you were injured while working on Black Friday, you are urged to contact the Cherry Hill workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP. We will thoroughly review the details of your case and assist you with every step of the claims process. Our skilled legal team will secure the financial benefits for which you are entitled, including medical expenses, lost wages, and all other costs associated with the injury. Call us today at 856-761-3773 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients in Camden, Cinnaminson, Delran, Maple Shade, Pennsauken, and throughout South Jersey.

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