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Wal-Mart OSHA fine upheld, businesses to adopt new safety measures

Wal-Mart has been fighting a fine that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued to the company for the death of an employee who was trampled by a crowd at a Thanksgiving weekend sale in 2008. OSHA said that Wal-Mart did not do enough to ensure employee safety during the sale. Wal-Mart was fighting the fine through litigation because of the concern that OSHA would become too involved in how businesses run sales.

A federal judge recently upheld the fine, but Wal-Mart is likely to appeal. OSHA issued new crowd control safety guidelines for retailers to choose to adopt last year and, now that the fine was upheld, it is likely that businesses will start to implement them.

Wal-Mart actually did change the way it runs its biggest sales because the county where the employee died agreed not to prosecute the company if they added more employee safety measures. In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, a crowd for the Thanksgiving sale popped the front doors off the hinges. Now, Wal-Mart places steel barriers in a zigzag pattern in front of their stores so that crowds enter in an orderly fashion and the front does not get pushed from the back. The stores also give out tickets for popular items, rather than requiring people to run and get to the items first.

No one was killed or injured in 2009 or 2010, which the judge presiding over the case said proved that Wal-Mart could have done better to protect employees in earlier years.

According to The New York Times, Wal-Mart and other businesses are concerned that OSHA and other government regulators could become too involved in the day-to-day affairs or marketing strategies of businesses. They are also concerned about how much they will be held liable for the actions of dangerous crowds that develop on their property.


Ruling Emphasizes Crowd Control by Retailers (The New York Times)

John P. Aldrich
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