Safety A Problem At Amazon Facilities


Amazon has many accolades within the e-commerce industry, but safety is not one of them. The unrealistic goals, schedules, and processes paint a picture that Amazon only cares about the money they can gain, not how they get it. In this blog post we have compiled a few statistics about the work environment.



National Employment Law Project (NELP) Statistics


A study published by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), which focuses on the California Amazon facilities, reveals some alarming statistics:


“Warehouse worker turnover rates rise as high as 100% when Amazon comes to town”

2017 Statistics (8):

  • The U.S. Overall average turnover rate for warehouse workers was 69.8%.

  • The California Overall (including Amazon) average warehouse workers turnover rate was 83%, which has increased from 42.1% in 2011.

  • In California counties with Amazon Fulfillment Centers average turnover was an astonishing 100.9%, this has more than doubled from the 2011 average of 38.1% a year before the first Amazon fulfillment opened.

  • The turnover rate for all California industries was 69.8% increasing from 63.9% in 2011. This is a minor increase in comparison to the above.


2020 Amazon was rated as one of the top 12 unsafest places to work. (2)


Though Amazon wasn’t in the top twelve of the Dirty Dozen 2020 report, it still earned its place among the “Dishonorable Mention” list on the same report. As the report states Amazon operates at levels that are of the most unsafe and hostile work environments for its employees. The high pressure and disregard for their employees health and safety appears to be part of their core values.

Amazon, despite being the largest e-commerce retailer in the world, set the poorest example in their standard practices. Their record shows this with the fatality count in and outside their facilities, hundreds of vehicle crashes, and in the the time of a pandemic, COVID-19 infections have been reported at approximately 74 facilities.

The statistics may not be a true representation, as they count the formally reported cases. When employees who question health and safety concerns, it often results in disciplinary action up to and including separation from the company. Systemic fear of losing their jobs, could be stopping other employees to report cases.


Below are a few highlights from their accident reports:

Amazon Workers in Nashua Hospitalized after Hazardous Chemicals Mix January 9, 2020. (3)


One female and two male Nashua, NH Amazon employees were sent to the hospital after mixing a known chemical and possibly an unknown chemical in a cleaning bucket causing a reaction exposing them to toxic fumes. All three were overcome by the chemicals and required assistance out of the building. The employees experienced symptoms ranging from major respiratory related issues, scratchy throats, and coughing.

Trailer Chemical Leak and Fire at an Amazon Warehouse - July 16, 2020. (4)

(Amazon Fulfillment Center-PHX 7 - 800 N 75th Ave, Phoenix, AZ)


A three alarm chemical fire started in the back of an Amazon trailer at the 1.3 million square foot facility shutting down Interstate 10 due to the smoke and chemicals in the air. Reports from the surrounding communities of chemical smells were received from over a half mile away. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


Fire destroys warehouse used to ship Amazon packages in Southern California - June 5, 2020. (5)

(2255 W Lugonia Ave 2255 W Lugonia Ave, Redlands, CA)


This 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse was a third party logistics and supply chain company operated by Kuenhne+Nagel and contracted by Amazon to handle shipping of large to extra-large items. The 2 alarm fire called for the help from six fire departments and was still unable to stop the flames resulting in the building burning down. The fire was so large that it shut down traffic on I-10.

Fire Chief Jim Topoleski said to Fox 11 news, that in addition to determining the cause of the fire, he aims to find out how a modern building with the latest in fire protection systems installed was so quickly overwhelmed and ineffective in controlling the fire.

2019 Amazon was rated as one of the top 12 unsafest places to work. (6)

Business Insider (7) conducted an interview with Robert Kirchner, an Atlas pilot and the Executive Council Chairman of the Teamsters Local 1224 Union, remarked, “It’s a ticking time bomb,” (7) referencing the working conditions weeks before a plane crash that killed three operating for Amazon.


Atlas pilots report that the company overworks them. Thirteen pilots from Atlas were interviewed and reported that their pay and benefits were below the industry standard and all except one stated that the Amazon Air flight pilots tend to be less experienced. Most of the pilots interviewed asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident.

Another example from the 2019 Dirty Dozen accounts Investigative Reporter James Bloodworth, conducting an undercover investigation and went to work for Amazon at a warehouse in Rugeley, England. What he witnessed first-hand was shocking working conditions similar to a sweatshop. Here is a list of some findings while working undercover as he saw first-hand. (8)

  • Workers have a point based disciplinary system, with six points being the grounds for separation.

  • Employees had handheld devices that monitored how long someone had been working and would be sent messages if they were behind or starting to slow down.

  • Bloodworth found hidden bottles full of urine on the shelves, though he states he didn’t know or see who did it, when he found it he opened and smelled it and confirmed it was definitely urine. (8) He believes that this was the fearful workers' solution to not having enough time to use the bathroom.

Bloodworth says in the 2019 Dirty Dozen when he went undercover he found “a workplace environment in which decency, respect and dignity were absent.”

2018 Amazon was rated as one of the top 12 unsafest places to work. (9)


National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) published a report titled “THE DIRTY DOZEN”. Seven workers killed at Amazon warehouses since 2013-2017 to include three incidents at separate locations within five weeks.


According to the report “Despite a pattern of preventable deaths, Amazon is requesting billions in tax breaks for a new headquarters, on top of $1 billion already received from state, local taxpayers.” The report further discusses how Amazon overcommits their employees and sets near impossible goals with close employee monitoring to ensure there are no gaps in performance. In 2018 Amazon received a patent to put ultrasonic wristbands on their employees to ensure they are moving in the right direction if not they would get buzzed. These wrist bands are not yet being used at the time of this report.

Conclusion

Amazon’s record speaks for itself as production and profits have a greater value than the health and safety of their employees. Amazon’s day to day operations foster does not value their employees, but rather what value they can get out of them.

No one should have to work in a hostile environment where one is treated as an object or a machine. Employees shouldn’t live in fear of discipline or losing their job if they try to go to the bathroom or cannot keep up with production goals that lead to unsafe behaviors.

Think about the effects of opening an Amazon facility in your community, would you want to work there? Would you want your children to work in such a place? Don’t subject our children or our community to the degrading and unethical environment that Amazon brings along with its facilities.

Is this what Hudson and surrounding NH residents really want to bring to our community?


Citations:

  1. Tung, Irene, and Deborah Berkowitz. “Amazon's Disposable Workers: High Injury and Turnover Rates at Fulfillment Centers in California.” National Employment Law Project, March 6, 2020. https://www.nelp.org/publication/amazons-disposable-workers-high-injury-turnover-rates-fulfillment-centers-california/

  2. (COSH), National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “Dirty Dozen 2020 Special Coronavirus Edition”. National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH), 2020. https://nationalcosh.org/sites/default/files/2020%20Dirty%20Dozen%20Report.pdf

  3. Brewer, Ray. “Amazon Workers in Nashua Taken to Hospital after Chemicals Mix,” January 9, 2020. https://www.wmur.com/article/amazon-workers-in-nashua-taken-to-hospital-after-chemicals-mix/30457842?src=app

  4. Loose, Ashley. “Chemical Leak at Phoenix-Area Amazon Warehouse Causes Smoke, Big Emergency Response.” KNXV. KNXV, July 17, 2020. https://www.abc15.com/news/region-west-valley/chemical-leak-at-phoenix-area-amazon-warehouse-causes-smoke-big-emergency-response

  5. Press, The Associated, Associated Press, Lauren Meyers, and Austin Bowling. “Fire Destroys Southern California Warehouse Linked to Amazon.” https://www.wvlt.tv, June 6, 2020. https://www.wvlt.tv/content/news/Fire-destroys-Southern-California-warehouse-linked-to-Amazon-571073811.html

  6. “THE DIRTY DOZEN 2019 Employers Who Put Workers and Communities at Risk”. National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, 2019. https://nationalcosh.org/sites/default/files/uploads/2019_Dirty_Dozen.pdf

  7. Premack, R. (2019, February 25). 'It's a ticking time bomb': A pilot for one of Amazon Air's contract airlines said the company overworks its pilots. Retrieved September 08, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-air-pilot-contract-said-airline-company-overworked-pilots-2019-2

  8. Ghosh, S. (2018, April 16). Undercover author finds Amazon warehouse workers in UK 'peed in bottles' over fears of being punished for taking a break. Retrieved September 08, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-warehouse-workers-have-to-pee-into-bottles-2018-4

  9. “THE DIRTY DOZEN 2018 Employers Who Put Workers and Communities at Risk”. National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, 2018. https://coshnetwork.org/sites/default/files/Dirty%20Dozen%202018,%204-25-18+FINAL(1).pdf


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