With previous Black Fridays making as many headlines concerning injuries as discounts, will this year see retailers meet the risk of the crowds?
Friday 27 November, 2015 will mark this year’s Black Friday, with sales expected to begin from Monday 23 November. Black Friday 2014 saw crowds in leading supermarkets break into arguments and fights, with little order to proceedings. Busy – perhaps unruly – crowds are to be expected for the discounts on products on Black Friday, you may say. But if that’s the case, then do the shops hosting Black Friday events not also expect such crowds? If so, there is a call for owners and managers to consider the risk owed to others – in other words, public liability.
What do we mean when we talk about public liability and the risk we owe to others? The legal duty that we all owe each other has been established for some considerable time. It is commonly called public liability and, in general terms, is the duty owed to members of the public. It is not entirely uncommon for accidents to occur to others as a result of our fault. Depending on the circumstances, the person injured has a right to claim when injured in a public place.
Consider the example of a music festival, wherein a large population is expected to attend, all with the same purpose of finding the best spot in front of the stage where their favourite acts will be performing. Without an adequate risk assessment and the preparations to ensure that the needs of any potential hazards are met, governing such large crowds could quite easily result in accidents and injuries through no fault of the victims.
If rushing crowds are expected, shop owners and managers should facilitate this in a way that considers health and safety. Past Black Fridays have seen shops employ varying methods of crowd control, including trained security and not allowing additional customers to enter whilst a pre-determined maximum occupancy has been reached. In the past, shops have blocked entrances, something that is hazardous on several levels – not least in the event of a fire. Other retailers have attempted to avoid excessive crowds, instead staggering the release of the Black Friday sales and therefore eliminating the need to rush for those wishing to get there first.
Last year saw Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police tweeting, “Very disappointing that major stores did not learn lessons from last year – our officers have enough to do already.” He went on to state, “We just ask these stores to work with us to reduce the demands on policing and reduce the risks of disorder and crime.”
The violence and assaults that were widely covered in the press from previous Black Friday sales events are a matter of criminal offence. These actions were not the same as people being injured by overcrowding and safety hazards. However, public liability is a matter of minimising the risk of the wellbeing of customers and employees and so, just as a night club is not necessarily a source of unsocial or violent disturbances, adequate security is nonetheless provided to see that it does not become an issue. The same could be said for supermarkets and shops anticipating large crowds and agitated consumers, with previous years’ experiences suggesting an increase in security in the interest of health and safety for customers and staff.
When it comes to the safety of employees and the public, shop owners and retailers are as responsible for the element of risk on Black Friday as any other day.
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