A worker assembles a box for delivery at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. April 30, 2019.
Clodagh Kilcoyne | Reuters
Federal officials are emphasizing workplace safety risks from Amazon.
Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the Labor Department, visited Amazon locations near Albany, New York, Denver and Boise, Idaho on Monday, according to a document seen by CNBC.
The inspections are part of an ongoing investigation launched last month by OSHA and the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. In mid-July, OSHA officials visited three other Amazon warehouses in New York, Chicago and Orlando in response to referrals from SDNY prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said last month that the Civil Division was investigating potential workplace safety hazards at Amazon warehouses nationwide, as well as possible fraudulent conduct designed to conceal injuries to OSHA and other regulators.
OSHA inspectors have so far focused on Amazon’s injury and illness record keeping, ergonomics program and Power Industrial Truck (known as PIT) operations, according to the latest document. PIT roles require employed to drive forklifts or other machinery to reach products on high shelves or move heavy items in the warehouse.
Federal prosecutors asked current and former Amazon employees to provide information about working conditions via an online form. A survey question reads: “Have you seen any workers working in an unsafe way to try to meet their productivity/rate requirements?” Another said: “Do you believe Amazon discourages workers from reporting injuries?”
A Department of Labor spokesperson confirmed that OSHA has opened investigations into Amazon warehouses in Colorado, Idaho and New York. The spokesperson said the investigations were based on allegations of safety and health violations at “several Amazon facilities” but declined to comment further as they are “actively investigating”.
Amazon representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel previously told CNBC in a statement that the company intends to cooperate with OSHA throughout its investigation. “We believe this will ultimately show that these concerns are unfounded,” Nantel said.
Amazon has been repeatedly criticized for its treatment of warehouse and delivery workers. Critics and lawmakers have pointed to the company’s obsession with speed and strenuous quotas as threats to worker safety. Employees often claim that they risk being disciplined and fired if they do not meet productivity quotas.
Amazon denied that it uses such quotas in its warehouses and has challenged reports of unsafe working conditions.
OSHA investigators have inspected Amazon warehouses numerous times on working conditions, including a tragic warehouse collapse and coronavirus-related health and safety concerns. When an OSHA violation is identified, it typically results in fines that pale in comparison to the hundreds of billions of dollars Amazon rakes in each year.
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