On January 12, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced that it had issued Amazon’s Robbinsville, New Jersey facility a citation for failing to report twenty-six work-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA also disclosed that the federal agency had sent two hazard-alert letters to Amazon regarding additional workplace safety violations.
OSHA issued the first hazard-alert letter because the company exposed workers to ergonomic risk factors, such as repeated bending at the waist and standing during entire shifts that lasted for ten hours a day, and sometimes included mandatory overtime. The second hazard-alert letter informed Amazon that the company’s on-site medical staff were providing medical care beyond that which was allowed by their certifications, and without the supervision of a board-certified medical professional licensed to practice independently.
OSHA commenced its investigation of Amazon’s New Jersey facility after receiving a complaint from an employee alleging that the company was not properly maintaining its workplace accident records and that the company was needlessly exposing employees to workplace dangers, including electrical and amputation hazards. The complaint also alleged that the New Jersey warehouse lacked appropriate protective gear for all of its workers.
As part of the investigation, OSHA reviewed Amazon’s workplace injury logs for 2014 and 2015 and discovered a number of injuries and illnesses caused by exposure to ergonomic risk factors. OSHA inspectors also observed the working conditions in the warehouse and interviewed a number employees over the course of several days. In addition, OSHA reviewed Amazon’s video surveillance footage and identified several potential hazardous conditions at the New Jersey warehouse.
Following the investigation, OSHA cited Amazon for not recording twenty-six instances of work-related injuries and illnesses on the required “OSHA 300” logs. Many of the unreported injuries involved cases of back, shoulder, or knee pain. Investigators also found that the company exposed employees to amputation risks and didn’t provide workers with necessary protective gear.
In a written statement, OSHA area director Paula Dixon-Roderick stated, “Failure to properly record occupational illnesses and injuries is hazardous to workers. The lack of accurate data can mask patterns of injuries and illnesses that could help uncover conditions with the potential of putting workers at risk. In addition to keeping accurate records, Amazon should address the potential dangers identified in the hazard alert letters to ensure the safety and health of its fulfillment center employees.”
OSHA recommends that Amazon voluntarily take reasonable steps to address, reduce, and, if possible, eliminate the ergonomic risk factors to which the company’s employees are exposed. The hazard-alert letter notes that, “prolonged standing causes blood to pool in the feet and legs causing increased pressure and increasing the rate of fatigue.”
OSHA also recommends that Amazon provide workers with an extra break throughout the shift to allow employees to rest. In addition, OSHA suggests that the company “provide chairs at work stations to allow employees to rest during breaks rather than walking to the break room, which can take several minutes and reduce the period of rest.”
As a result of the recordkeeping violations, Amazon faces a fine of $7,000. An Amazon spokesperson told Bloomberg News, “We do not agree with the findings and will be contesting the citation.”
Amazon has a well-documented history of treating its employees poorly. In August of last year, the New York Times published a front-page expose describing the company’s deplorable working conditions. The article described an Amazon warehouse in Pennsylvania where workers were forced to endure more than 100-degree heat. According to a local news report, the company arranged to have ambulances waiting on-site to take sick workers to the hospital, and paramedics regularly took employees out of the warehouse in wheelchairs and on stretchers due to heat exhaustion.
If you or a loved one have been hurt on the job, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. The workers’ compensation attorneys at Seigel Law can help you determine if you are eligible to receive benefits under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation program.