Amazon has succeeded in becoming a giant in the e-commerce business. The company boasts that it has more than 1,000 safety and health professionals at their fulfillment centers in North America. A spokesperson for the company has claimed that safety is its number one priority and that each incident of a workplace injury involves a review of practices and protocols to ensure the well-being of Amazon’s employees.
Amazon’s accident and injury records are not nearly as positive as its record of business expansion and profit-making. Moreover, its record of injuries and fatalities is getting worse. In the past five years, there were seven fatalities at Amazon warehouses. Some employees were crushed by forklifts, conveyor belts, or pallet loaders. Others were hit by vehicles. One 29-year-old employee died of a heart attack after his overnight shift.
Robots in Warehouses
Recently, an automated robot pierced a canister of bear repellant exposing dozens of workers to capsaicin at a New Jersey warehouse. The compound is an irritant and causes difficulty breathing as well as burning throat and eyes. Over 50 employees were exposed in the incident and a number of them required treatment at a hospital. This was the second time Amazon had an incident of exposing workers to bear repellent.
Amazon owns a patent on an employee tracking device to be worn by a worker that buzzes them if they make a wrong move. The device has insidious undertones. Some argue that Amazon is going to extremes to treat employees like fleshy robots. At the same time, Amazon is seeking to replace workers with robots.
Amazon Makes List of Dirty Dozen Employers
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) is an umbrella organization dedicated to the betterment of workplace safety and health. Among other things, it tracks performance of employers in the protection of the safety and health of workers and communities. Each year National COSH prepares a Dirty Dozen list of employers who put workers and communities at risk.
Criteria for the Dirty Dozen include severity of injuries experienced by workers, exposure to recognized hazards, and repeat violations of safety and health laws. Due to its track record of repeated violations of safety and health laws, as well as its high rate of workplace fatalities, Amazon has been identified as one of National COSH’s dirty dozen employers.
Safety and Health Inspections Help Workers and Employers
National COSH notes that a lack of regular safety inspections puts workers at risk. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency tasked with performing workplace inspections. OSHA’s budget has been slashed in the past few years. This despite research findings that regular and random safety inspections can save employers money as well as improve worker safety and health.
Common Warehouse and Factory Injuries
In every industry, even businesses where most employees work in cubicles, the chances of incurring a workplace injury exists. Certain industries, however, involve much riskier tasks that cause stress on the body and put workers in significant danger due to various factors. Individuals who work in warehouses or factories face the possibility of workplace injuries daily whether they originate from equipment used, the work environment in which they must complete assignments, or the type of work they must perform. Some warehouse and factory workers acknowledge that hazards may accompany their positions, while other employees may discover the peril after they unexpectedly become hurt on the job.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, eleven fatalities were reported by warehouses and storage facilities in 2015. About five in 100 warehouse workers sustained workplace injuries in 2016, which exceeds the approximate three in 100 average of all industries. Following are the most common workplace accidents that affect workers in warehouses and factories.
Most Common Workplace Accidents
Forklift Accidents: Warehouses use forklifts for transportation of products on a daily basis. Even experienced forklift operators who either walk beside or ride the forklift may become injured if the vehicle overturns and crushes the operator. During the loading process, the operator or other workers may sustain injuries from precariously stacked items. Forklift accidents reign as the most common cause of workplace injuries and fatalities.
Truck Accidents: Although many warehouses utilize outside trucking companies for hauling, some businesses still use their own fleets, which may result in work accidents.
Falling Objects: Since warehouses and storage facilities tend to store various items in their confines and may be moved from time to time, falling objects may endanger employees. A piece of equipment may harm workers, too, if it hits an individual or slips out of place.
Shelf and Rack Collapses: Similarly, shelves and racks may collapse, spilling the contents or the shelving unit itself, causing injuries and even fatalities for workers.
Slip and Fall Accidents: Slip and fall accidents occur frequently at warehouses and factories due to the constant moving of objects and excess materials residing on the floor preparing to be transported or shelved. Warehouse floors may be slippery or slick or may be uneven or contain different types of flooring, which could lead to dangerous falls.
Falls from ladders may also occur, which may result in serious injuries or fatalities. Loading docks may present significant danger to employees due to falling hazards, as well as the possibility of being crushed by an item or a truck that is moving boxes or pallets of materials.
Overexertion Injuries: Employees who engage in physical labor often face overexertion injuries, which may appear minor but could develop into full-blown health issues. Lifting or carrying large units may put excess pressure on the back, shoulders, and legs, leaving employees with debilitating, lifelong injuries that inhibit workers staying gainfully employed.