Sports Law • Risk Management

July 14, 2010: A Lesson From Wal-Mart in Crowd Control

Managing crowd control is a lesson that can be learned from Wal-Mart. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposed a modest fine against Wal-Mart following the customers’ trampling of its employee, which led to the employee’s death. Customers lined up outside of a New York based Wal-Mart in anticipation of an after Thanksgiving sale there. OSHA accuses Wal-Mart of failing to protect its employee from a situation that would likely cause such serious physical harm.

Wal-Mart has agreed to improve its crowd-control techniques but refuses to pay the fine citing the trampling as an “unforeseeable incident.” If OSHA wins its argument, it would set a precedent that would require employers to protect employees from potential hazards caused by unruly crowds.

This message is transferable to facility managers and sports teams in the world of sports and recreation. Sports fans frequently get heated and can become violent. Thus, if the OSHA standard is adopted, employers and facility managers might have an greater duty to protect its players and its staff from unruly crowds. But who will protect from harm the security guards hired to maintain the unruly crowds?