Amazon workers seriously hurt at twice rate of other warehouses

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Amazon warehouses are a more dangerous place to work than comparable facilities, new federal injury data shows.

In 2022, there were 6.6 serious injuries for every 100 Amazon workers, according to a report released Wednesday from the union coalition Strategic Organizing Center, which relies on data submitted by Amazon to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That’s more than double the rate of all non-Amazon warehouses, which had 3.2 serious injuries for every 100 workers.

Amazon’s serious injury rate fell by about 3% between 2021 and 2022. The rate shot up to 6.8 serious injuries for every 100 workers in 2021, compared to a rate of 5.9 serious injuries for every 100 workers in 2020. Amazon previously attributed the jump to a warehouse hiring push during the pandemic.

The e-commerce giant has significantly pared its head count in the last year as it acknowledged it hired too many workers, as CEO Andy Jassy looks to cut costs across the company. Amazon had 1.54 million employees globally at the end of the fourth quarter, down 4% from the year-earlier period.

The SOC report argues that Amazon has “not made meaningful progress” on its total rate of injuries or serious injuries between 2017 and 2022, the six-year period in which it has data. Until 2020, OSHA did not release full injury and illness records submitted by employers, claiming that more detailed logs contained confidential commercial information. That changed after a lawsuit filed by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and labor group Public Citizen forced OSHA to release the data.

While Amazon’s serious injury rate fell between 2021 and 2022, its overall injuries increased. Amazon reported 39,000 total injuries at its U.S. facilities in 2022, up from 38,300 total injuries in 2021.

The data suggests that injuries experienced by workers at the company are more frequent and severe than other warehouse workers, SOC said. In 2022, Amazon was responsible for more than half of all serious injuries in the warehousing industry, while making up 36% of its workers, according to the report.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said the SOC’s findings “paint an inaccurate picture.”

“The safety and health of our employees is, and always will be, our top priority, and any claim otherwise is inaccurate,” Nantel said. “We’re proud of the progress made by our team and we’ll continue working hard together to keep getting better every day.”

Amazon also disputed the SOC’s use of the term “serious injury rate,” saying it’s not a regulatory metric. The company said the term could capture any injury that could lead to an employee taking time away from work, or spending time working in another role, including what it considers to be minor injuries, such as a strain that might require a worker to avoid lifting heavy boxes.

Amazon claims its lost time incident rate, which measures the number of incidents that require workers to take time off, is below the warehousing industry average.

Labor advocates have zeroed in on Amazon’s workplace safety record in their efforts to organize its facilities. Employees continue to point to the company’s productivity demands and the strenuous nature of the job as a catalyst behind high injury rates. Several states including New York, Washington and California have passed laws taking aim at Amazon’s work quotas.

Federal inspectors have repeatedly levied fines against the company at several facilities over various safety violations. OSHA cited Amazon at six of its warehouses for failing to report workplace injuries and exposing workers to ergonomic hazards. Those citations followed inspections by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York at multiple sites, and the office’s probe is ongoing.

Last March, the state of Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries cited Amazon’s flagship facility in Kent, Washington, over unsafe work practices. The agency found that many Amazon jobs involve “repetitive motions, lifting, carrying, twisting, and other physical work” and said workers are required to perform these tasks “at such a fast pace that it increases the risk of injury.”

Amazon has appealed the fines and in October filed a lawsuit against the agency, asking a judge to set aside the orders to reduce hazards on the grounds that they violate the due process protections under the 14th Amendment.

Amazon said it doesn’t have fixed quotas, but that it has performance expectations “like any business.” The company said it investigates any reports of managers misusing productivity guidance.

The SDNY, a division of the Department of Justice, is also investigating whether Amazon made “false representations” to lenders about its workplace safety record to obtain credit.

Amazon said it will appeal the OSHA citations. It also said it disagrees with the SDNY’s allegations.

The company has previously defended its safety record, and it says it plans to invest $550 million on safety initiatives in 2023, after spending roughly $1 billion on improving safety between 2019 and 2022.

Jassy¬†has said¬†Amazon’s injury rates are “sometimes misunderstood,” but he acknowledged Amazon can do more to improve safety inside its facilities. In 2021, Amazon set a goal to halve its warehouse injury rate by 2025.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2021 pledged to make the company “Earth’s Best Employer” and “Earth’s Safest Place to Work.” Shortly afterward, Amazon rolled out WorkingWell, a series of programs designed to prevent workplace injuries in its warehouses by encouraging stretching and healthy eating habits, among other things.

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