For serious injuries linked to the company’s insistence that employees maintain a relentless pace of work, Amazon was fined $60,000—the amount it made “every four seconds in 2022.”
A paltry $60,000 fine for failing to keep employees safe at one of the world’s richest companies offered the latest evidence, according to one critic, that the system ostensibly meant to protect workers “is so broken.”
That was the assessment of Paris Marx, host of the podcast “Tech Won’t Save Us,” after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Wednesday it had issued a citation to Amazon for worker safety violations at three of its warehouses in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, New York.
As part of an investigation that is still ongoing, OSHA found that Amazon warehouse employees experience “high rates of musculoskeletal disorders” and are at high risk for lower back injuries due to frequently being required to lift heavy packages for long hours.
A log of injuries sustained by workers at the warehouse in Waukegan showed one employee suffered a foot fracture while handling a 55-pound package, another person’s face was “crushed/smashed” by a 61-pound piece of furniture, and another worker sprained their lower leg while handling a 148-pound item.
NEW: Dept of Labor is preparing to fine Amazon $60K for workplace safety hazards.
Recent injuries at a warehouse in Waukegan, IL include:
-a 61 lb piece of furniture smashing a worker’s face
-a 90 lb TV spraining a shoulder
-a bed cutting a worker’s nose pic.twitter.com/uztatUVNkV
— Lauren Kaori Gurley (@LaurenKGurley) January 18, 2023
While many warehouse workers at a variety of companies lift heavy objects during their workdays, Amazon has been denounced by workers and labor rights groups for requiring employees to maintain a grueling pace in order to meet quotas and ensure deliveries are made rapidly.
As the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) said in its report Primed for Pain: Amazon’s Epidemic of Workplace Injuries in 2021, “the company’s obsession with speed has come at a huge cost for Amazon’s workforce,” with workers suffering serious injuries at a rate 80% higher than warehouse employees at other companies.
“Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries,” said Doug Parker, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health at the U.S. Department of Labor.
Despite OSHA’s findings, noted Mother Jones, the agency fined the e-commerce giant “roughly 0.000013% of its reported $469,822,000,000 2021 revenue,” or as progressive journalist Timothy Burke put it, the amount the company made every four seconds last year.
Amazon made $60,000 every four seconds in 2022. https://t.co/jn3whNbUZe
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 18, 2023
Amazon said Wednesday it plans to appeal OSHA’s citation and appeared to reject the agency’s findings, which represent the first time the Labor Department has accused a employer of maintaining an excessive work pace.
“The government’s allegations don’t reflect the reality of safety at our sites,” Kelly Nantel, a spokesperson for Amazon, toldWired. “The vast majority of our employees tell us they feel our workplace is safe.”
Eric Frumin, health and safety director at SOC, called on Amazon “to drop its relentless resistance to OSHA’s orders to fix these hazards.”
“Today’s OSHA citations are the latest evidence that Amazon has company-wide, corporate-level policies and practices that create hazardous workplaces, and may result in medical mistreatment or denial of treatment for seriously injured workers,” said Frumin. “Amazon treats its workers from the warehouse to the delivery route as disposable in its relentless drive for profit.”
OSHA’s investigation into the company is continuing at warehouses in Aurora, Colorado; Nampa, Idaho; and Castleton, New York.
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