Judge Upholds Penalty against Wal-Mart for Worker Trampling

March 28, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Chief Administrative Law Judge Covette Rooney of the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has upheld the citation and full penalty issued to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management following a November 2008 trampling death of a worker.

A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) press release said the agency cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management, concluding an investigation launched after a worker was trampled to death on November 28, 2008, at a Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, New York (see Wal-Mart Fined for Trampling Death of NY Worker). The worker was knocked to the ground and crushed by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers surging into the store for its annual “Blitz Friday” holiday sales event.   

OSHA’s inspection found that the store’s workers were at risk of being crushed by the crowd due to the store’s failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management practices. Those practices would have provided the store’s workers with the necessary training and tools to safely manage a large crowd of shoppers, according to the press release.  

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause, OSHA issued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. one serious citation for exposing workers to the recognized hazards of asphyxiation or being crushed by a crowd. The citation carried a proposed fine of $7,000, the maximum penalty amount for a serious violation allowed under the law.  

“During the course of OSHA’s investigation, the company implemented crowd control measures storewide, and the National Retail Federation also promoted those practices to its members,” noted Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels, in the announcement. “We praise that action, and urge all retailers to implement crowd management practices ahead of future sales events likely to draw large crowds.”