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Amazon to spend $12 million on workplace injury partnership

Amazon to spend $12 million on workplace injury partnership

Amazon created a $12 million workplace injury initiative in partnership with the National Safety Council aimed at researching and reducing the most common workplace injuries, the council said Thursday

The partnership comes as the Seattle-based e-commerce giant has committed to maintain its productivity targets for warehouse workers despite Washington state’s safety regulator determining last month the pressure is causing injuries and violating the law. 

The initiative will seek to find “innovative solutions” to prevent the most common workplace injury: musculoskeletal disorders, or injuries involving nerves, muscles, joints and other body parts.

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The partnership will establish an international advisory council to review approaches to prevent such injuries. It will also conduct research, and provide grants to small- and medium-sized businesses to fund research and innovation. 

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our employees, and this partnership will allow us to dive deep into the best way to reduce MSDs,” Heather MacDougall, Amazon’s vice president of worldwide workplace health and safety, said in the announcement.

“National Safety Council has a long history of advancing safe practices in the workplace, and we look forward to working alongside them as well as many other businesses, experts, and students around the world to innovate and solve for this important issue," MacDougall continued.

Amazon will not publicly release data about its progress in reducing injuries, but it will share injury statistics with the National Safety council, MacDougall said at a news conference Wednesday, according to The Seattle Times

At the same conference, the company said it would keep its productivity targets unchanged, the newspaper reported.

“Safety and performance targets can go hand in hand, that can continue to be the case,” MacDougall said. 

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In May, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries in a citation identified the pace of work at Amazon as a hazard. The citation states there is a “direct connection between Amazon's employee monitoring and discipline systems and workplace MSDs [musculoskeletal disorders].”

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told The Seattle Times the company plans to appeal the citation. 

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams,” Nantel said in a statement at the time. 

Amazon spokesperson Alyssa Bronikowksi said in a statement the company grew its health and safety team to more than 6,200 employees and invested more than $1 billion in safety measures in 2020.

“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,” Bronikowski said in a statement to The Hill.

Last week, The Washington Post published a report that Amazon reported a higher rate of serious injury incidents that cause employees to miss work or be shifted to light-duty tasks since 2017 than at other comparable warehouse operators. 

Internal company data published last year by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting also showed that Amazon workers get hurt more often than at comparable warehouses. 

The data reported last year also noted that injury rates at Amazon’s facilities spiked during the weeks of Amazon’s Prime Day and Cyber Monday sales. Amazon is scheduled to hold its two-day Prime sale on Jan. 21-22.

-Updated 1:15 p.m.