Frenzied Thanksgiving sales can lead to workplace injury

As doors opened to welcome the throngs of early shoppers taking advantage of the bargains on Black Friday and stores were concerned about displays, prices, customers, sales, security, worker safety may have been the last thing on many North Carolina employers’ minds. However, as the death of a Walmart worker in 2008 demonstrated, not controlling a frenzied crowd can result in unfortunate incidents. In such situations, workers’ compensation can become incredibly important to those injured on the job.

As a result of the 2008 Walmart incident, OSHA fined Walmart $7,000 for failing to control the shopping crowd. This is the highest penalty OSHA levies. OSHA regulations state that it is an employer’s duty to ensure a safe working environment. The employer should make the workplace free of hazards that cause workplace injuries or deaths. Injured employees have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim.

OSHA fined Walmart after approximately 2,000 shoppers ripped the door off its hinges and rushed into the store, crushing the worker during the sale on the day after Thanksgiving. Walmart continues to contest the fine, claiming the fine could have a negative impact on future sales promotions.

OSHA now offers crowd control guidelines, including opening the store earlier, keeping security guards or police at doors to guide traffic and placing employees on raised platforms to ensure their safety. In addition, the National Retail Federation has also put forth crowd control practices.

Even though there have been no reported instances of worker injuries or deaths since 2008 during Black Friday sales, accidents can still happen, whether or not employer negligence is responsible. Workers’ compensation provides valuable benefits to injured employees, including medical expenses, wage replacement and permanent disability. With a 30-day time limit for notifying the employer and a two-year limit for filing a claim, however, it is important that injured employees act quickly to ensure that workers’ compensation can help meet their needs.

Source: Boston Globe, “Walmart still battling fine in ’08 trampling,” Megan Woolhouse, Nov. 22, 2012

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