Amazon Warehouse workers are twice as likely to be injured as other warehouse workers, according to a recent study, and an Inland Empire warehouse worker advocacy group says workplace injuries are even worse in Amazon’s California warehouses.
“The Injury Machine: How Amazon’s Production System Harms Workers” pointed to the online retailer’s emphasis on fast delivery to endanger fulfillment center workers like those that dot the landscape of the Inland Empire – part of a logistics boom which has transformed the local economy and made the region a key cog in the national supply chain.
“Amazon’s grueling work pace is only getting worse,” said Eric Frumin, director of health and safety at the Strategic Organization Center, who authored the study, said in a press release. “…The company’s obsession with speed crushes tens of thousands of workers every year, and Amazon seems to have no plans to stop.”
The Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions, attributes its findings to its review of injury data Amazon submitted to OSHA.
In an emailed statement, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said the company “has hired tens of thousands more people” to meet demand for online shopping spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Like other companies in the industry, we’ve seen an increase in recordable injuries over this period from 2020 to 2021 because we’ve trained so many new people,” Nantel said, adding that data from the Federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration showed that Amazon’s recordable injury rate had fallen further. by 13% from 2019 to 2021 while the rate for “three other large retailers” has increased.
“While we still have work to do and we won’t be satisfied until we excel at safety, we continue to make measurable improvements to reduce injuries and keep employees safe,” Nantel said.
Safety is always a priority for the logistics industry, Rex Beck, professor of business and logistics management at Norco College, said by email.
“Security has always been a concern in warehousing and it will remain so in the future. There is always room for improvement,” Beck said. “With the help of Cal/OSHA, I hope Amazon will focus on the safety and training of future workers.”
Amazon has at least 15 fulfillment centers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to a company that helps businesses sell goods on Amazon.
Union campaigns have begun at Amazon facilities nationwide, with workers voting to unionize in Alabama and Staten Island. Sheheryar Kaoosji, Executive Director of Warehouse Employee Resource Centerwhich defends warehouse workers in Inland, said it was unaware of any active union campaigning at Inland Amazon sites.
A look at Amazon’s 2021 injury data “reveals that the company has not only made progress in improving its injury rates, but has performed far worse than the year, raising important questions about Amazon management’s commitment to preventing worker injuries.” wrote the study authors.
According to the study:
- Amazon workers suffered nearly 40,000 injuries in 2021. “While Amazon employed 33% of all US warehouse workers in 2021, the company was responsible for 49% of all injuries in the industry Last year.”
- Amazon workers were seriously injured — defined as injured enough to miss work or lose the ability to perform regular job duties — at a rate of 6.8 injuries per 100 workers in 2021. The rate in non-Amazon warehouses was 3.3 percent.
- “Amazon warehouse workers who are seriously injured need nearly 19 days longer to recover from their injuries than non-Amazon workers.”
- For the fifth year in a row, injuries in Amazon warehouses that use robots were higher than those without robots.
- Amazon’s injury rate plummeted in 2020, the same year the company, responding to COVID-19, stopped disciplining employees for not meeting productivity measures. Amazon “reimplemented its work rhythm” in October 2020, just before Prime Day, an annual Black Friday shopping event. “Unsurprisingly, injury rates have increased in 2021 alongside Amazon’s immense production pressures being reapplied to workers.”
The injury problem is worse in California, according to center Kaoosji. A review of California figures shows that injury rates at Amazon’s California warehouses have increased by 30% between 2020 and 2021 – “a rate more than 60% higher than the injury rate at other warehouses in the state” , says the center’s press release.
Amazon’s California workforce has grown as the company adds new fulfillment centers. While this may contribute to increased injuries, “If the pace of work is too fast for workers, that’s a health and safety issue that leads to injury,” said Marco Montoya of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. by email.
Amazon’s fulfillment center in Redlands “had the largest year-over-year increase (injuries) in 2021 of any major Amazon warehouse in the state,” the statement said, adding that the Injury rates exceeded the national average at Amazon warehouses in 36 of Amazon’s 51 facilities. in California, including San Bernardino, Moreno Valley, Rialto and Eastvale.
The results of the study did not surprise Kaoosji.
“When you get delivery in one or two days, it’s not magic,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s because a human being runs and drives very fast… people move too fast. You rush not to see this forklift in front of you.
Amazon has the money to train people as they come in and more emphasis needs to be put on safety training, Kaoosji said.
Last September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation making California the first state in the nation to limit production quotas for retail warehouse workers.
This law, AB 701came into force on January 1. Kaoosji said his center is collecting data to see what effect AB 701 is having and educating workers about their rights under the new law.
The study “draws conclusions and uses language somewhat guided by their perspective” as a pro-worker group, Rex Beck, professor of business and logistics management at Norco College, said via email. . “Others may describe things a little differently, especially given the constraints Covid has placed on our supply chain.”