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Amazon fined by regulators for unsafe working conditions in warehouse • TechCrunch

Federal regulators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found three Amazon warehouse facilities law violated designed to require employers to provide safe work environments. Research has shown that Amazon workers are at high risk for back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), especially in warehouse environments where speed is more important than safety.

“While Amazon has developed impressive systems to ensure its customers’ orders are shipped efficiently and quickly, the company has not shown the same commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of its employees,” said Doug Parker, an assistant secretary at OSHA.

Amazon must pay a $60,269 fine for the violations at Deltona, Florida warehouses; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, New York. As part of the same investigation, OSHA found in December that there were six Amazon warehouse facilities do not record and report workers’ injuries and illnesses. There are three similar, ongoing investigations at Amazon facilities in Colorado, Idaho, and New York.

OSHA’s findings show a continuing pattern of worker injuries, including injuries from injuries when handling objects over 50 pounds. An example report as of July reads: “crushing/smashing; face; furniture (61 lbs).” Another reads: “strain/sprain; lower leg; exercise equipment (148 lbs.)” The Florida warehouse was also cited for being too hot, potentially causing heat-related illness.

Amazon has on-site clinics called Amcare for workers who may be injured on the job, but OSHA claims these facilities could hinder workers from receiving adequate medical care. Amazon employees told investigators that the Amcare clinic in Deltona, Florida, required injured workers to wait three weeks after an injury before they could be referred to a doctor. OSHA also found that if an employee suffered head trauma and vertigo, they were not immediately referred to a physician.

An Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company denies OSHA’s claims.

“We take the safety and health of our employees very seriously, we strongly disagree with these allegations and intend to appeal,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement. “We have fully cooperated and the government’s allegations do not reflect the reality of security at our sites. Over the past few months, we have demonstrated the extent to which we work every day to mitigate risk and protect our people, and our publicly available data shows that we have reduced the number of accidents by almost 15% between 2019 and 2021.”

Amazon said the federal government doesn’t provide specific ergonomic guidelines to employers, so the company has invested in technical innovations that could reduce the need for employees to bend, twist and reach in ways that could cause injury. Warehouse workers also participate in stretches called huddles.

“The vast majority of our employees tell us they feel our workplace is safe,” said Nantel. “We look forward to sharing more about the numerous safety innovations, process improvements and investments we are making to further reduce injuries during our call. We know there are always ways to improve even further, and we will – we will never stop working to be safer for our employees.

Federal regulators have had problems for years at Amazon’s warehouses, where employees typically work physically demanding ten-hour shifts with minimal breaks. According to data from the Washington State Department of Labor, the rate of strains and sprains per 10,000 workers is four times higher at Amazon than at other warehouses. And in 2019, OSHA found the same problem with Amcare facilities it is now reporting: Amcare employees treat employees on the spot rather than referring them to other doctors when necessary.

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