For consumers in in New Haven, Connecticut and nationwide, Black Friday means sales, shopping sprees, and even post-Thanksgiving bonding with loved ones. Four years ago, the name "Black Friday" took on a different meaning when an employee was trampled to death by frenzied shoppers in a Walmart store.
In 2008, the Haitian immigrant employee was crushed when 2,000 shoppers tore off the hinges of the doors and stampeded the New York suburban store the day after Thanksgiving. He died before he reached the hospital.
After the accident, OSHA launched an investigation to determine whether Walmart was responsible for conditions that resulted in the death. OSHA is a federal agency that investigates workplace accidents. It also has the authority to fine companies that fail to protect employees from harm.
OSHA regulations state that employers are responsible for providing a workplace free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause injury or death. Walmart was fined $7,000 dollars for failing to control the crowd of shoppers. The fine was levied for a violation of the "recognized hazards" rule. For 4 years, Walmart has refused to pay the $7,000 fine, spending millions to contest the violation, and continues to fight the decision despite an administrative ruling in favor of OSHA.
Walmart has fought the allegation and fine, contending that the citation has far-reaching implications that could lead to "unfairly harsh penalties and restrictions on future sales promotions." Since the accident, Walmart claims to have implemented safety procedures to manage crowds, including increased security, police, and the use of line vouchers.
Companies that expect large Black Friday crowds must take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of employees and shoppers. Any reported injuries or fatalities related to failed safety precautions could give rise to personal injury and workers' compensation claims.
ource: Boston Globe, "Four years and millions of dollars later, Walmart still fighting $7,000 OSHA fine," Megan Woolhouse, Nov. 22, 2012