Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) has once again come under scrutiny from the U.S. workplace safety regulator for subjecting workers in its extensive warehouses to hazardous working conditions. This time, the issue revolves around burdensome production quotas and inadequate medical care provision. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, announced on Thursday that the Logan Township, New Jersey warehouse workers faced physical strain leading to muscular disorders, neck injuries, and back problems due to demanding work requirements. OSHA further stated that Amazon had failed to ensure proper treatment for injured employees.
OSHA has proposed penalties amounting to the maximum allowable under U.S. law, totaling $15,625. Amazon is given a 15-day window to either pay the fine or contest it through an appeal to a review board. Throughout the year, OSHA has imposed approximately $150,000 in fines on Amazon. These fines have been attributed to instances of either unsafe working conditions or the company’s failure to accurately report work-related injuries in multiple warehouses across the United States.
In a parallel development, the Missouri Workers Center, an advocate for workers’ rights, revealed that it had submitted a complaint to OSHA on behalf of employees working at an Amazon warehouse close to St. Louis, Missouri. The grievance alleges that the e-commerce giant enforces unsafe work speed and mistreatment by its internal medical staff. The workers’ complaint draws attention to OSHA’s history of citations against Amazon, suggesting a consistent pattern of safety violations across the company’s warehouse network, a pattern corroborated by their own experiences.
Amazon responded through a spokesperson, asserting its commitment to worker safety and expressing its intent to contest the OSHA citation. The company stated that global records indicate a significant improvement in worker injury rates since 2019.
In relation to the Missouri complaint, Amazon welcomed OSHA’s inspection of what it described as a “clean, safe facility.” The company asserted that the injury rate at this particular warehouse is lower than the industry average and has witnessed over a 55% improvement since 2019. Amazon also highlighted positive feedback from the majority of employees through anonymous surveys, indicating their sense of safety and the perception that management consistently strives to enhance workplace safety.
Critics have long accused Amazon of prioritizing profits over safety by imposing demanding workloads and discouraging breaks to meet aggressive productivity targets. These concerns surrounding the company’s safety track record were amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic and contributed to unionization efforts across various warehouses, including a successful unionization vote among New York City workers last year.