Amazon injury rate well above warehouse standard: report

Amazon reported serious injuries at nearly double the rate of other warehouses between 2017 and 2020, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), a coalition of labor unions, analyzed data released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and found that there were 5.9 serious injuries per 100 Amazon workers over the course of 2020, compared to 3.3 serious injuries per 100 workers at other warehouses.

Serious injuries are those that require workers either taking time off or being moved onto lighter tasks.

“Amazon’s abysmal health and safety record is not an accident,” the report argues. “Rather, it is the predictable outcome of a company that prioritizes growth and profits over the health and safety of its employees.”

The company has been on a hiring spree in recent years and is now the second-largest private employer in the U.S. and has nearly 1.3 million workers worldwide. In 2020, Amazon reported 24,505 serious injuries among its average annual workforce of 581,624.

The injuries at Amazon warehouses forced employees off work for an average of 46.3 days in 2020, longer than the industry standard.

The serious injuries per 100 workers ratio at Amazon warehouses grew from 6.5 in 2017 to 6.9 in 2018 and 7.8 in 2019, the peak year. By comparison, those ratios were 2.9, 3.1 and 3.1 per 100 workers the same years at non-Amazon warehouses, according to data shared with The Hill.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told The Hill that the company has made investments into health and safety teams, but did not dispute the veracity of the injury data shared by the SOC.

“While any incident is one too many, we are continuously learning and seeing improvements through ergonomics programs, guided exercises at employees’ workstations, mechanical assistance equipment, workstation setup and design, and forklift telematics and guardrails—to name a few,” Nantel said in a statement.

Amazon has long been criticized for its worker safety record, especially the use of aggressive performance metrics and pressure on employees to stay on task.

The report quoted Safiyo Muhamed, who worked at an Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn., for more than two years before falling and slipping a disc in her back while lifting a heavy tote.

“Every day is just go, go, go,” Muhamed said.

“Amazon wants you to work like a robot, like a machine. Every week they rank you, they monitor you through the computer. You have to be so fast. Humans aren’t able to do it,” she added. 

The company has pushed back on those criticisms. Outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged in a letter to shareholders in April the need to do better for employees but stressed that “we set achievable performance goals that take into account tenure and actual employee performance data.”

Amazon announced last month that it was launching a new worker safety program that will include showing employees videos on how to do tasks without hurting themselves, mindfulness practices and signage in break rooms indicating what snacks are healthy.

–Updated at 1:08 p.m.

Tags Amazon Jeff Bezos Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA Strategic Organizing Center Worker Safety
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