In many parts of the world, Black Friday is one of the busiest days of the year for retailers. Ahead of this year’s event (held on Friday 25 November), Marta González Moreno, of IOSH’s Logistics and Retail Group, looks at how health and safety is managed to ensure staff and customers don’t come to harm
In recent years, Black Friday has become one of the most important days for retailers. For some of them, the customer footfall on this day is even higher than the first day of winter sales.
It is a great day for business but with more people come additional risks, and it is essential to plan ahead as much as possible to ensure the safety of the staff and of the many excited customers. Here is my checklist of most common hazards to prepare for in Black Friday.
First, a high-sales day is not an excuse to let your safety standards down; it should be exactly the opposite!
The high number of customers will require you to apply exemplary emergency measures. Your evacuation routes should be completely clear and the systems fully functional. There should be enough staff trained in first aid and emergency management, and your evacuation and lockdown plans should be tried and tested. This will not only address your duty of care but will also ensure that in case of an incident, the store can resume the activity as fast as possible.
An over-excited, uncontrolled crowd is a recipe for disaster. The moment of opening the doors is critical and customers running to get the best deals is a yearly reality.
To minimise the risk, apply strict queue control from the start for an organised entrance. Hire extra security and place members of staff in key points to prompt customers to slow down during the first minutes of the day (for example at the entrances and next to escalators).
Consider how you are going to manage the flow of entering and exiting customers and apply segregation if necessary.
This could be the day of the year when your store actually reaches full capacity. If this is likely, ensure that there is a plan to control and restrict the entrance of customers and have enough staff available to manage it.
But if you struggle with a small capacity, did you know that you can make adjustments to your fire risk assessment to increase it? Hire a competent fire risk assessor to help you calculate if you can temporarily increase the capacity by implementing additional measures on the day.
Violence and undesirable behaviour
Unfortunately, violence towards staff continues to rise and during Black Friday we might witness violence between customers too.
Increasing your level of trained security specialists is a must, and it is also advisable to review with staff and management the procedures to follow to prevent and react against violence and undesirable behaviour.
Last but by no means least, let’s not forget about our staff. This will be one of the most exhausting and stressful days of the year and it is important to support them.
Starting with the basics, make sure they can take frequent breaks and that plenty of water is at quick reach. It is nice if they can be provided with fruit and healthy snacks like nuts or energy bars to refuel their energy levels during their shift. Responsive managers must be quickly available to help in case of a call for help. Foster communication and team collaboration to support each other during the day and be appreciative to the enormous effort they are making.