By Alberto Gilman
The United States Department of Labor, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] have cited several warehouses under Amazon for failing to keep workers safe, exposed to additional hazards and concerns. A series of letters was sent out to facilities in Florida and Illinois, with the Amazon warehouse location at 500 Hudson Valley Avenue also receiving a letter and citations.
In addition to the citations, the Amazon warehouses, with the New Windsor location included, were cited for improper record keeping of work-related injuries and illness according to OSHA in a release sent out on December 16, 2022. With these citations, Amazon faces a total of $60,269 in proposed penalties for these violations.
In the letter addressed to Eric Crouch, Operations Manager Site Leader, on January 17, 2023, an OSHA investigation into the New Windsor warehouse begun on July 18, 2022 cited the following, respecting ergonomics: “Workers face immense pressure to meet pace of work and production quotas at the risk of sustaining musculoskeletal injuries” and “evidence that injuries may not have been reported, because Amazon’s on-site first-aid clinic (“AmCare”) is not staffed appropriately.”
Over the course of the investigation, OSHA reviewed injury and illness recordkeeping forms since the site opened; conducted private employee and management interviews; reviewed ergonomic hazard control efforts for the company; reviewed employee medical records; and conducted various analyses based on performance and risk factors with additional labor guidelines. Investigators also reported employees held scanners continuously while scanning items and were exposed to repetitive movements and high pull forces that risk shoulder and lower back musculoskeletal disorders [MSD].
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel provided the following statement in response: “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. 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,” said Nantel. “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.”
Amazon also shared several background information points to further address the situation and provide additional clarification: “We strongly disagree with OSHA’s claim that we continue to ignore health and safety standards to protect workers. It’s important to remember that musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are the most common type of workplace injury across all industries, not just at Amazon. Amazon has publicly committed to significantly reducing MSDs and through our partnership with the National Safety Council, we’ve brought together some of the best expertise in the world to develop best practices and mitigate risk. Notably, the federal government doesn’t have any specific ergonomics guidance for employers to follow. At Amazon, we’ve taken our own innovative approach, investing significant amounts of time, money and energy to assess and analyze MSDs in order to mitigate risk. Some of our actions include job rotations, stretching groups (called Huddles), regular reminders at employee’s workstations about taking breaks, and engineering advancements that reduce the need to twist, bend, or reach. Regarding struck-by incidents: At any work environment where employees are moving, packing or unpacking a significant number of items on a daily basis, there’s a risk those items could become dislodged. We do everything we can to reduce that risk, including assessing and revising engineering protocols, regularly training employees, and continually assessing injuries and near-misses to identify additional ways to improve workplace safety.”