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Maryland retailers -- keep your shoppers safe this holiday season

With Black Friday behind us and holiday shopping in full swing, many residents of Maryland are converging on the state's malls and shopping centers to snag the season's "must haves." However, it is important for Maryland retailers to exercise due care in keeping their premises safe for shoppers this holiday season.

One aspect of customer safety during the holiday season is crowd control. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released guidelines for retailers regarding crowd control to keep shoppers and employees safe.

Retailers should make sure that they have adequate staff to meet the needs of the expected crowds, and that their staff receive the training needed to handle a large event, such as Black Friday. This includes training employees on any emergency plans. Practicing these plans ahead of time may be a good idea.

It may be necessary to erect rope lines or barricades to manage crowds, for example, at check-out lines. These items should be set up before any consumers arrive, and should have an adequate amount of regular turns to avoid the possibility of crowds pushing people from behind. Workers should be available to help direct customers in the store.

Using tickets or other lottery systems for high-demand items may also reduce crowding. In addition, items on sale should be evenly distributed throughout the premises to avoid large crowds accumulating in one place. Having signs and fliers showing where sale items are, as well as store hours, exits and entrances can also help.

It is important for retailers to make sure their stores are safe for shoppers. Shoppers injured in stores this holiday season due to the store owner's negligence may want to look into the possibility of pursuing a premises liability lawsuit. Medical and other expenses can quickly escalate. Seeking compensation can be one way to address these costs so the injured person can focus on recovery.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers," accessed Dec. 8, 2014

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