A judge recently upheld a fine issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) against Wal-Mart for an employee death during a Thanksgiving sale event in 2008. OSHA said that Wal-Mart had not put adequate safety measures in place to ensure that employees would be protected from unruly crowds. Wal-Mart was fighting the fine through litigation because they do not want OSHA to tell them how to run sales.
In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, crowds at the store popped doors off their hinges. In 2008, employees were pushing back on the doors to keep them shut. After the doors were unlocked, the crowd surged in and people fell. Employees climbed on top of vending machines to escape. One employee who fell was trampled to death by the crowd.
In order to avoid prosecution by the county where the employee died, Wal-Mart agreed to put new safety measures in place. The fact that no one was injured or died in 2009 or 2010 proved to the judge that Wal-Mart could have done more sooner to make sure that their employees were safe.
Now, Wal-Mart has implemented the new safety measures in most of its stores. According to The New York Times, OSHA issued new crowd control guidelines last year and it is likely that many retailers will start to adopt those guidelines now.
Ruling Emphasizes Crowd Control by Retailers (The New York Times)