Almost half of the warehouse workers in New Jersey and around the country who are injured in on-the-job accidents each year are employed by the online retailer Amazon. That was one of the findings made by researchers from a coalition of labor unions who studied injury data submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2021. The data revealed that almost 40,000 Amazon warehouse workers were injured in workplace accidents in 2021, and 89% of them suffered injuries so serious they required medical attention. Figures like these prompted OSHA to launch a major investigation into working conditions in Amazon facilities around the country. That investigation has now led to action.
On Jan. 18, the Department of Labor announced that citations have been issued to Amazon warehouse and distribution centers in Florida, Illinois and New York for exposing workers to ergonomic hazards that could cause them to suffer serious musculoskeletal injuries. Amazon denies any wrongdoing, and a company representative told reporters that the company plans to mount an appeal instead of paying the $60,629 in penalties proposed by OSHA.
New Jersey facility
Amazon has been accused of placing efficiency and speed over worker safety for years, and news of the latest citations is unlikely to come as a surprise to its executives. In 2015, OSHA issued similar citations when its investigators discovered the same unsafe working conditions found recently in New York, Illinois and Florida at an Amazon warehouse in Robbinsville, New Jersey. Amazon also faces sanctions for failing to report workplace injuries and concealing the extent of injuries when reports are submitted. Employers engage in this kind of behavior when they fear OSHA inspections or wish to avoid workers’ compensation claims.
Too big to care
Most employers would be ruined by this level of official scrutiny, but Amazon seems to be able to simply brush these matters off. This is likely because the proposed penalties will not mean much to a company that generates billions of dollars of revenue each year. Amazon executives have also realized that the general public is happy to do business with companies that offer speedy delivery even if workers are put in danger to provide it.