Amazon’s latest crisis should serve as a wake-up call for the company to do better for its workers. This month, the online retail company was served a major safety citation after federal investigators found multiple of its warehouses operating under unsafe working conditions.
Staffers at these facilities have long complained about Amazon’s negligence, with several workers accusing the company of prioritizing efficiency over their safety. This investigation proves that this isn’t just a boy-cries-wolf situation, as the data clearly indicates a rapid rise in lower-back injuries and musculoskeletal disorders among Amazon warehouse employees in recent years.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration concluded that Amazon was “failing to keep workers safe” and that the working conditions at three of the company’s warehouses were riddled with hazards that could cause “serious physical harm.” Despite past large-scale investigations into Amazon’s injury rates over the years, this instance marks the first time a federal fine has been imposed on the company.
Debbie Berkowitz, a former senior adviser for OSHA, told Wired that the citations were not ones to take lightly. She explained that the citations are “actually very substantive” and that Amazon will be required to make a number of changes to improve worker safety in their facilities, such as implementing an ergonomics model to help prevent injuries and a stricter policy for recording and reporting work-related injuries.
Amazon, on the other hand, denies the agency’s findings and is actually planning on appealing them. Company spokesperson Kelly Nantel disputed the recent allegations, claiming that the vast majority of their employees have said they feel their workplace is safe.
“We’ve cooperated fully and the government’s allegations don’t reflect the reality of safety at our sits,” she said.
Nantel also claims that Amazon has invested a great deal of time and money to lower the risk of injury at its warehouses, and she even provided internal data demonstrating that it managed to lower injury rates by nearly 15 per cent between 2019 and 2022.
Still, OSHA’s findings show that Amazon’s injury rates are typically double that of Walmart, which is the company’s closest competitor in terms of size. The agency has confirmed that it will continue to investigate Amazon’s facilities in the coming months.
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