The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday cited e-commerce giant Amazon for exposing workers at three of its warehouses to unsafe conditions and ergonomic hazards, and has proposed a fine of $46,875.
Amazon warehouse workers experienced high rates of musculoskeletal disorders during their employment at the facilities in Aurora, Colorado; Nampa, Idaho; and Castleton, New York, according to the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The inspections follow referrals from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York that led the agency to open inspections and find similar violations last year at three additional Amazon warehouse facilities in Florida, Illinois, and New York.
At all six locations, OSHA investigators found Amazon exposed its warehouse workers to a high risk of low back injuries and other disorders, due to four conditions:
• high frequency with which employees must lift packages and other items.
• heavy weight of the items handled by workers.
• employees awkwardly twisting, bending, and extending themselves to lift items.
• long hours required to complete assigned tasks.
“Amazon’s operating methods are creating hazardous work conditions and processes, leading to serious worker injuries,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said in a release. “They need to take these injuries seriously and implement a company-wide strategy to protect their employees from these well-known and preventable hazards.”
The accusation follows a similar OSHA charge on January 18 that Amazon had failed to provide safe workplaces and exposing employees to ergonomic hazards at warehouse facilities in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, New York. OSHA suggested a $60,269 fine for that finding. OSHA also charged in December that Amazon had failed to properly record some work-related injuries and illnesses at the same six sites.
In response to the January 18 letter, Amazon had acknowledged that those citations were serious, but pointed out that OSHA had not issued “willful citations,” which are the agency’s highest level of offense.
“We take the safety and health of our employees very seriously, and we strongly disagree with these allegations and intend to appeal. We’ve cooperated fully, and the government’s allegations don’t reflect the reality of safety at our sites,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said in an email.
“Over the last several months we’ve demonstrated the extent to which we work every day to mitigate risk and protect our people, and our publicly available data show we’ve reduced injury rates nearly 15% between 2019 and 2021. What’s more, the vast majority of our employees tell us they feel our workplace is safe. We look forward to sharing more during our appeal about the numerous safety innovations, process improvements, and investments we’re making to further reduce injuries. We know there will always be ways for us to improve even further, and we will—we’ll never stop working to be safer for our employees,” Nantel said.