Amazon Hit with Citations for Ergonomic, Struck-by Hazards

24 Jan, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

Seattle, WA (WorkersCompensation.com) – OSHA delivered a number of cititations to Amazon on Tuesday, alleging the company at three different warehouses failed to keep workers safe. 

Inspections at three warehouses in Deltona, Fla.; Waukegan, Ill.; and New Windsor, N.Y. found workers were at high risk of lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders due to workers being required to lift packages and other items; the heavy weight of the items; awkward postures like twisting, bending and long reaches while lifting; and the long hours needed to complete assigned tasks. The agency said the company did not protect workers from hazards that were likely to cause “serious physical harm.”

The agency also cited the company for violations of the general duty clause requiring the company to provide a safe workplace. The Florida warehouse was also cited for struck-by hazards. In all, the agency proposed more than $60,000 in fines for the company. 

According to statista.com, in 2021, Amazon had a net income of over $33 billion, up from $21.3 billion in 2020. The company reported sales revenues of more than $469 billion in 2021. A net income of $33 billion is the equivalent of more than $62,000 in net income every minute. 

OSHA said similar investigations are ongoing at Amazon warehouse locations in Aurora, Col.; Nampa, Idaho; and Castleton, N.Y.

OSHA said the investigations were the result of referrals from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The investigations into the warehouses in Deltona, Waukegan and New Windsor started July 18, 2022, while the inspections in Aurora, Nampa and Castleton started on August 1, 2022. 

“Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries,” Assistant Secretary for OSHA Doug Parker said. “While Amazon has developed impressive systems to make sure its customers’ order are shipped efficiently and quickly, the company has failed to show the same level of commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of its workers.” 

The investigation also found that Amazon’s on-site injury logs showed warehouse workers experienced high rates of musculoskeletal disorders. But that’s only when the company kept the required information.

In December of last year, inspections at those same Amazon facilities found the company failed to record and/or report worker injuries and illnesses. OSHA issued citations to the facilities for recordkeeping violations including failure to record injuries and illnesses, misclassifying injuries and illnesses, not recording the injuries and illnesses within the required time and not providing OSHA with timely injury and illness records. OSHA proposed more than $29,000 in penalties for those violations. 

“Solving health and safety problems in the workplace requires injury and illness records to be accurate and transparent,” Parker said in a statement in December. “Our concern is that nothing will be done to keep an injury from recurring if it isn’t even recorded in the logbook which – in a company the size of Amazon – could have significant consequences for a large number of workers.” 

Federal prosecutors announced last year that the civil division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office would be looking into potential workplace safety hazards at Amazon warehouses across the country, as well as at possible fraudulent practices designed to hide injuries from regulators. 

The investigation stems from a survey, where federal prosecutors asked current and former Amazon workers to fill out an online form concerning working conditions at the warehouses. Questions on the survey read, “Have you seen workers working in unsafe ways to try to meet their productivity/rate requirements?’ and “Do you believe that Amazon discourages workers from reporting injuries?” 

In April of last year, a report from the Strategic Organizing Center found that Amazon warehouse workers suffered serious injuries at a higher rate than other warehouse workers. The report said there were 6.8 serious injuries for every 100 Amazon warehouse workers, compared to 3.3 serious injuries for every 100 workers at all other warehouses. 

At the time the report was released, Amazon said they intended to make the company the safest place to work on the planet. 

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told Wired Magazine Wednesday that the company intends to appeal OSHA’s most recent findings. 

“We’ve cooperated fully, and the government’s allegations don’t reflect the reality of safety at our sites,” she said. “The vast majority of our employees tell us they feel our workplace is safe.” 

Nantel said that Amazon has invested significant time and money in lowering musculoskeletal risk. Data from Amazon shows the injury rates fell almost 15 percent between 2019 and 2021. 

Amazon has 15 days from the date of the citation to either comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. 


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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