OSHA cites Amazon for safety hazards at three warehouses amid larger investigation

Business

(NEXSTAR) – Amazon, which calls itself “Earth’s safest place to work,” is facing more than $60,000 in proposed penalties after federal safety inspectors reported unsafe working conditions in three U.S. warehouses.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday that it has cited Amazon for exposing workers to “ergonomic hazards” at warehouses in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, New York. The inspections were part of a larger, ongoing investigation, according to OSHA.

Investigators found warehouse workers were “at high risk for lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders” because of “the high frequency with which workers are required to lift packages and other items; the heavy weight of the items; awkward postures, such as twisting, bending and long reaches while lifting; and long hours required to complete assigned tasks.”

Amazon was also cited for workers in Deltona being exposed to “struck-by hazards.”

“Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said in a press release. “While Amazon has developed impressive systems to make sure its customers’ orders are shipped efficiently and quickly, the company has failed to show the same level of commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of its workers.”

As part of the larger investigation, OSHA said investigations remain ongoing at warehouses in Aurora, Colorado; Nampa, Idaho; and Castleton, New York. The same investigation already prompted OSHA to cite Amazon for 14 recordkeeping violations, which included failure to record injuries and illnesses.

“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,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told Nexstar in an emailed statement.

According to Nantel, the company’s publicly available data shows injury rates dropped nearly 15% between 2019 and 2021.

“What’s more, the vast majority of our employees tell us they feel our workplace is safe,” Nantel added. “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.”

Amazon has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings of the inspections.

Amazon was also cited for workers in Deltona being exposed to “struck-by hazards” because of unevenly stacked or unsecured merchandise, which could collapse, according to OSHA.

Last month, three Democrats called on the company to explain its plans to protect workers at its Edwardsville, Illinois warehouse that is being rebuilt after a tornado tore through it and killed six workers in 2021. In April, OSHA said an investigation into the collapse at the Edwardsville facility found Amazon’s severe weather emergency procedures met minimal federal safety guidelines for storm sheltering. The agency made no requirements for Amazon based on the investigation but recommended areas of improvement. 

During the same storm, a driver associated with the Edwardsville warehouse claimed she was threatened with termination if she abandoned her route amid tornado warnings.

Rebecca Klar and Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.

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