Lee Bennett is a health and safety manager at British Land, which owns more than 50 shopping centres and retail parks across the UK. He's also a member of IOSH's Retail and Logistics Group. He tells us how he has been planning for one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
How far in advance have you been planning for Black Friday?
Black Friday planning starts in July as part of our centres peak trading preparations. Although Black Friday is less of a ‘day’ now and is more of a ‘week’.
What specific health and safety risks does Black Friday pose?
An increase in the number of visitors to our centres introduces risks around large crowds and managing capacities and flow in our centres as well as the challenges around increased cleaning, security, first aid provisions and car parking. Although having done this for several years our centres are very well prepared.
How do you go about managing these, ensuring both workers and customers do not come to harm?
Planning involves ensuring operationally, commercially, and visually our centres are fully prepared for the biggest day of the year with regards to visitor numbers. Team rotas are adjusted, car park overspill areas are prepared, local third parties such as urban traffic control and Police are notified, retailers are briefed, and the centres are fully prepared to maximise on the increased visitor numbers to ensure a clean, safe, and friendly experience for all.
How does Black Friday differ from other very busy times of year, from an OSH perspective?
Typically, in our largest centres we will see visitor numbers of around 90,000 on Black Friday which is nearly double the number of visitors on a typical Friday. Our centres sales and trading hours are extended on Black Friday to ensure a sensible spread of visitors across the day, minimising pinch points and excessive hourly peaks. This year several retailers are closing on Boxing Day for staff wellbeing, so 27 December is expected to be our busiest day of the year, although Black Friday will easily be our second busiest day of the year.