Amazon Workers Are Getting Hurt – a Lot
Amazon is often subject to scathing criticism in the media, sometimes for good reason. This is one of the occasions where the criticism of the company is warranted. A new study revealed how the company has been careless in maintaining the safety of its workers. Even though Amazon workers represent a third of warehouse workers, they account for nearly half of all of the injuries in the warehouse industry.
The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) is a coalition of labor unions, including organizations like the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union. Recently, the SOC requested to analyze data that Amazon submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in regards to its warehouses. The data revealed that the injuries that workers experienced at Amazon’s warehouses increased between 2020 and 2021. The company reported 38,300 total injuries from its American facilities in 2021. This was a significant increase from 2020’s total injuries, which were 27,100.
Unfortunately, the majority of these injuries are serious. The study reported that for every 100 Amazon warehouse workers, there were 6.8 serious injuries – double the amount of serious injuries found in warehousing as a whole (3.3 out of 100)
The study categorized serious injuries as injuries that were so severe that the worker was unable to perform their job functions or had to miss work entirely. Amazon warehouse workers were reported to need at least 19 days to recover from their serious injuries, compared to other workers in the warehouse industry.
Why are Amazon workers getting hurt so often?
One of the possible reasons for the increase of serious injuries in Amazon warehouse workers is the pandemic-influenced hiring spree.
In September of 2020, where companies struggled to fill open positions, Amazon hired 33,000 corporate and technology workers in the United States. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the company has continued to hire workers in every aspect of the company. The company certainly took advantage of online shopping during this time. Online orders were so overwhelming that the company had to hire an additional 175,000 workers who could help package and pick items out of the warehouse.
According to Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel, the company’s recordable injury rate decreased last year compared to the injury rate of 2019. The company has also spent $300 million on improving worker safety in 2021, and states that the rate of employees who missed work as a result of a workplace injury decreased by 43% in 2020.
Nantel states that the company continues to make measurable improvements to workplace safety and reducing injuries. Still, another possible reason for the increase of serious injuries among Amazon warehouse workers is the fast work pace that workers are expected to meet.
Lawmakers have been pressuring Amazon to address its productivity pace inside warehouses. California’s Senate, in particular, had to pass a landmark bill that reduced Amazon’s use of productivity quotas in warehouses. The report also criticized the company’s obsession with speed, and how that obsession has contributed to the injury rates of its warehouse workers. Amazon uses extensive productivity and monitoring systems to put additional pressure on their workers to move at dangerous speeds.
How Amazon warehouse workers feel about the company’s productivity rates
The SOC and lawmakers are not the only parties who feel that Amazon’s productivity rates need to be revamped. The company’s own warehouse workers have started to form labor unions in response to the company’s productivity demands. This month, the Amazon workers in New York’s Staten Island voted to form its first union at an Amazon warehouse. The union is demanding that Amazon place more reasonable standards on its workers, among other demands.
Warehouse workers have expressed disgust against the company’s “customer obsession” culture. The company has been criticized in the past for putting customer obsession and a speedy delivery over the safety requirements of its workers. Workers have claimed that the pace of work does not allow workers to take mandatory rest breaks.
How Amazon plans to address workplace safety moving forward
Despite the criticism from all parties, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has laid out a vision for how to improve the company’s workplace safety. Part of the company’s vision has been to become “Earth’s Safest Place to Work.” The company aims to reduce the number of serious worker injuries by 50% by 2025. The company also has incorporated several wellness programs like a WorkingWell safety and injury prevention program. Other wellness programs include daily meetings for operation leaders who can provide short interactive videos on topics like proper gripping, pushing, pulling, and nutrition.
Amazon is not the only company that places additional pressure on its workers to meet ridiculous deadlines. However, these conditions can increase the chances of a workplace accident happening. When workers are rushed or pressured to complete their jobs as quickly as possible, they end up missing potential hazards around the workplace. Their attention is divided and they focus on taking shortcuts on certain procedures. When workers take shortcuts on important safety procedures, it can lead to serious injuries. Workers are not only at risk of jeopardizing their own safety, but their coworkers’ safety.
When you have sustained injuries in a work-related accident, reach out to the Maryland workers’ compensation attorneys at Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping you receive the benefits that you deserve. Call our office at 410-730-7737 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have multiple offices and represent employees throughout the state of Maryland.