The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued complaints against Amazon at three of its warehouses for exposing workers to safety risks. he announced Wednesday.
Amazon employees at the three facilities — located in New Windsor, New York, Waukegan, Illinois, and Deltona, Florida — were exposed to “ergonomic hazards” that put them at high risk of lower back injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, which refer to problems such as sprains, strain and carpal tunnel syndrome, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Strenuous working conditions at Amazon’s warehouses, which require employees to lift heavy packages for long hours, often in “inconvenient positions,” contributed to the ergonomic risks, the authority said.
Amazon also received a special citation for exposing workers at its Deltona warehouse to falling boxes of merchandise.
Amazon faces a total of $60,269 in proposed penalties for these violations.
“Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not for safety and resulted in serious injuries to workers,” Douglas Parker, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in a statement. “While Amazon has developed impressive systems to ensure that its customers’ orders are shipped efficiently and quickly, the company has failed to demonstrate the same level of commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of its workers.”
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the company disagrees with the agency’s decisions and plans to appeal. Nantel said Amazon has seen improvements in worker safety due, among other things, to process changes in its warehouses.
“We have cooperated fully and the government’s allegations do not reflect the reality of security at our sites,” Nantel said in a statement.
OSHA inspected the facility after receiving a referral from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. OSHA and the US Attorney’s Office in July launched an investigation into three facilities. It was reported by CNBC in August, the probe expanded to include three additional sites, near Albany, New York, Denver, Colorado, and Boise, Idaho.
Amazon also faces a separate investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s civil division, which is focused on safety risks for workers at the e-tailer’s facilities around the country. As part of the probe, investigators are also looking into whether Amazon accurately reported worker injuries and did not disclose those injuries to lenders in order to obtain credit.
In December, OSHA cited Amazon for failure to record injuries and illnesses, misclassification of injuries and illnesses, failure to record injuries and illnesses by the required deadline, and failure to provide timely injury and illness records to OSHA. She was fined more than $29,000 for these violations.
Amazon, which is the second largest employer in the US after Walmart, has been routinely criticized by lawmakers, activist groups and its own employees for its workplace safety record. Critics have increasingly focused on Amazon’s use of productivity quotas, arguing that its relentless focus on speed is leading to injuries while working in warehouses. Multiple studies The Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions, attributed the high injury rate among warehouse workers and delivery workers to Amazon’s “obsession with speed.”
Legislators in New York and California they focused on the pace of work in Amazon’s warehouses through legislation that seeks, among other things, to limit the use of excessively restrictive quotas.
Amazon warehouse workers have previously complained that the company’s pace of work prevents them from getting enough bathroom and rest breaks leads to unfair disciplinary action.
Workplace safety issues are one of several catalysts for a recent surge in organizing efforts among Amazon employees. Workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York’s Staten Island in April voted for the form the company’s first union in the US. Workers at another Staten Island facility rejected the unionwhile the second election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama is competing. Since that election, organizing efforts have begun at other Amazon sites in the US
Amazon has previously said it supports workers’ right to organize, but doesn’t believe unions are the best option for workers.
Amazon denied that it uses productivity quotas in its warehouses and disputes reports of unsafe working conditions. In April, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company’s injury rate is “sometimes misunderstood,” but acknowledged that Amazon could do more to improve security on its devices.
The company also stated that it strives to be “Earth’s Best Employer” and in 2021 expanded its list of basic leadership principles to include sentiment. Amazon has seen a bit of a turnaround lately in roles that help oversee these efforts, including its head of workplace safety, Heather MacDougall, It was reported by CNBC.