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OSHA cites Amazon for ergonomic and other safety hazards in warehouses: NPR

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Workers pack orders at an Amazon fulfillment center on January 20, 2015 in Tracy, California. OSHA cited Amazon after federal safety inspectors found ergonomic hazards at three Amazon warehouses.

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Workers pack orders at an Amazon fulfillment center on January 20, 2015 in Tracy, California. OSHA cited Amazon after federal safety inspectors found ergonomic hazards at three Amazon warehouses.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Federal safety inspectors concluded that the twists, bends and long movements that Amazon warehouse workers perform up to nine times per minute put them at high risk for low back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders and constitute an unacceptable risk.

As part of a broader investigation into hazardous work conditions, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on Wednesday that it had subpoenaed Amazon for failing to keep workers safe at warehouses in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, New York.

“While Amazon has developed impressive systems to ensure its customers’ orders are shipped efficiently and quickly, the company has not demonstrated the same level of commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of its workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Occupational Health and Safety Douglas Parker.

The e-commerce giant faces a total of $60,269 in proposed penalties, the maximum allowed for breaching the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards.

Amazon has 15 days to dispute OSHA’s findings.

“We take the safety and health of our employees very seriously and strongly disagree with these allegations and intend to appeal,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement.

“Our publicly available data shows that we reduced injury rates by nearly 15% between 2019 and 2021,” added Nantel. “In addition, the vast majority of our employees tell us that they feel our workplace is safe.”

Parker noted that intentional or repeated violations by an employer can lead to higher penalties. He said there have been no ergonomics-related violations in Amazon’s history that put the company on the path of the “Serious Violator Program,” but with new inspections, that could change.

In December, OSHA cited Amazon for more than a dozen record violations, including failure to report injuries, as part of the same investigation.


Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, pictured on March 26, 2021.

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Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, pictured on March 26, 2021.

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Inspectors compared DART rates—days off work, work restrictions, or transfers—across warehouses and across Amazon facilities, and found that rates were exceptionally high across all three Amazon warehouses.

At Amazon’s fulfillment center in Waukegan, Illinois, where employees handle packages over 50 pounds, the DART rate was nearly double the industry-wide DART rate, and at Amazon facilities in New York and Florida, it was the triple.

The DART rate for the industry overall was 4.7 injuries per 100 workers per year in 2021, Parker said.

Inspectors also found that workers are at risk of being struck by falling materials that are unsafely stored from heights of 30 feet or more at Florida facilities.

If the government prevails, Amazon would be required not only to pay the fines but also to correct the violations, which Parker noted could result in significant investment in re-engineering its processes to provide workers with a safer work environment.

Editor’s Note: Amazon is among NPR’s recent backers.

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