Lessons from the Field: It’s Getting Crowded in Here

Jdimytai Damour was the type of employee you want on hand if you run a retail store during one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Standing six feet, five inches tall, he was surely an imposing figure.

Damour’s size didn’t stop a crowd of overly zealous shoppers from trampling him to death at an Arkansas Walmart in 2008.

Eager to cash in on post-Thanksgiving day deals, about 2,000 shoppers jockeyed for position outside the store’s locked doors. Shortly before 5 a.m., the doors collapsed under the relentless pressure. Four people were injured, including a pregnant woman whom Damour tried to help. Unfortunately, Damour himself did not survive.

Damour’s family called him a “gentle giant.” His friends called him Jimbo. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) called him a victim of Walmart’s lack of crowd management measures.

OSHA concluded Walmart committed a “serious violation” of rules requiring employers to make sure their workers are safe from hazards. The violation carried a $7,000 fine. Walmart spent seven years and $1 million fighting the fine before agreeing to pay it earlier this year.

As the holiday season picks up steam, retailers are ramping up for another shopping frenzy. OSHA encourages them to take time to put crowd management measures in place and protect their employees. Here are a handful of elements a crowd management plan should include:

  • Post trained security personnel or police officers on-site.
  • Set up barricades or rope lines for pedestrians and crowd control well in advance of customers arriving at the store. Make sure barricades prevent customers from lining up at the store’s entrance.
  • Develop emergency procedures that address potential dangers.
  • Have security personnel or customer service representatives explain the store’s approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.
  • Do not allow additional customers to enter the store when it reaches maximum occupancy.
  • Do not block or lock exit doors.

For more information on protecting employees during major shopping events, see OSHA’s crowd management fact sheet.

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