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NEW YORK – According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety investigators, three Amazon warehouses have been cited for high injury risks. OSHA’s report alleges workers at three Amazon warehouses are at risk of serious injury due to workers lifting and transporting heavy packages for long hours and at unsafe speeds. OSHA announced the citations involved Amazon warehouses in New York, Florida, and Illinois. These three warehouses were inspected due to an ongoing OSHA investigation into Amazon’s safety practices. OSHA safety investigators also stated that Amazon was putting its workers at serious risk of injury due to the repetitive twisting, bending, and lifting of packages for hours.
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According to the news reports, Amazon denies the findings by the OSHA, and stated that it would appeal OSHA’s citations. However, OSHA announced the inspections are part of an ongoing investigation and is being conducted with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York last month.
The legal fines levied against Amazon are the maximum penalty permitted under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty clause, which requires employers to furnish safe working conditions for their employees. Health Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, stated that Amazon could easily pay the fines rather than change its practices, but Amazon is legally required to make changes, or it would face more severe consequences. Mr. Parker also stated that “Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries.” Parker also stated that Amazon has serious injury rates at its warehouses, and those rates were almost double the industry average last year. Parker reported that Amazon’s New York and Florida warehouses had triple the industry injury rate. Parker stated that Amazon warehouse workers were timed, making repetitive movements up to nine times per minute.
Amazon has admitted that its warehouse injury rates are higher than its peers but stated that the company had invested millions of dollars in improving safety.
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said OSHA’s allegations do not mirror the truth of our safety record at our warehouses. Nantel stated that Amazon reduced injury rates by 15% from 2019 until 2021.
However, OSHA stated that workers at the three facilities were at high risk for musculoskeletal disorders and lower back injuries due to repeated twisting, lifting, and bending. OSHA also complained about the pace at which the workers must work to move heavy packages.
OSHA recommended to Amazon that the company invest in a series of solutions, such as buying machinery that reduce the need for employees to twist, bend, walk too far with heavy loads, and lift packages to dangerous heights. OSHA also recommended giving workers more frequent breaks and task rotations. Amazon representative said those are the kinds of policies the company has already been implementing. Amazon also stated that it had partnered with the National Safety Council to design best practices, and workers are routinely reminded to join stretching groups and take breaks.
Amazon issued a statement saying, “we strongly disagree with OSHA’s claims” that we ignored safety and health standards.
In addition to other safety violations, the OSHA stated it was also investigating possible fraud that was set up to hide work-related injuries from OSHA. Last year, OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor issued fourteen citations against Amazon for failing to record warehouse injuries in five different states accurately.
OSHA initiated several inspections last year at Amazon warehouse locations in Waukegan, Illinois; New Windsor, New York; and Deltona, Florida. The next month OSHA inspected warehouses located in Aurora, Colorado; Castleton, New York; and Nampa, Idaho. OSHA claims Amazon committed 14 recordkeeping violations, including failing to record illnesses and injuries, misclassifying illnesses and injuries, not recording injuries and illnesses within the required time, and not providing OSHA with timely illness and injury records. OSHA will continue to investigate the six locations.
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