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Black Friday: deals, chaos and an elevated need for public safety

Black Friday.

Although that name hasn’t always evoked strong and immediate passions in millions of Americans, it certainly has in recent years, and progressively so.

Wikipedia is not a source readily consulted by serious researchers on weighty topics, but there is arguably little harm done in turning to it for a quick study on Black Friday. The online encyclopedia states that the term originated in Philadelphia and began assuming wider national relevance from about 1975.

Look at it now. Ohioans and residents of all other states are certainly enamored of the day following Thanksgiving, when shopping turns, well, frantic.

And even deadly. One recent article noting the event reminds that 2013 is the fifth-year anniversary of a fatal on-the-job injury suffered by a Wal-Mart employee, who was trampled by shoppers entering his workplace. Other fatalities and acts of violence have occurred in the frenetic shopping atmosphere that centrally marks the day.

Safety officials are duly concerned. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently sent a letter to major retailers across the country urging the adoption of proactive steps to avert hazards and adverse outcomes for workers and for shoppers looking for deals on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season.

Employees are a special concern, since they literally stand amidst what is often pure chaos, and for extended periods.

“The busy shopping season should not put retail workers at risk of being injured or killed,” says OSHA chief David Michaels.

The safety agency urges retailers to adopt OSHA safety guidelines, which centrally include the following tips: keeping entrance and exit routes open; having security officers on hand; having a fully responsive emergency plan in place; and not exceeding a store’s maximum occupancy capacity.

Source: News, “US Labor Department reminds retail stores to take precautions on Black Friday,” Nov. 18, 2013