'They need to take these injuries seriously': OSHA investigating Amazon for 'failing to keep workers safe'

'They need to take these injuries seriously': OSHA investigating Amazon for 'failing to keep workers safe'
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Economy

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that Amazon is failing to keep its worker's safe "from back injuries and other serious, chronic muscular disorders," Mother Jones reports.

Per Mother Jones reporter Emily Hofstaedter, during several investigations last month, OSHA discovered Amazon "was endangering employees in at least six warehouses across five states — an unprecedented geographic range for its inspections — in part with intense productivity quotas that drive an injury rate of 6.8 per 100 workers, more than double the industry average."

Health and Safety Director of the Strategic Organizing Center, Eric Frumin, asserted "OSHA may have just conducted 'the broadest investigation by the Labor Department in all of history.'"

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Regarding Amazon employee Jennifer Crane's experience with injury while on the job, Hofstaedter reports:

[Crane] grabbed a twenty-pound box and felt pain shoot up her arm. Amazon’s medical team told her to finish her shift. That night, an MRI revealed a torn ligament in her wrist.

During a news conference hosted by organizing group Athena Coalition, Crane said, “I was sent back to work with the expectation to meet my normal rate or face discipline.”

With two sons who also work for Amazon, Crane contended “Amazon won’t take responsibility for how dangerous they are. They push us at unrealistic speeds that strain and hurt our bodies.”

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Although Amazon was only ordered to pay $107,144 in total, which Hofstaedter reports is "0.00000021 percent of the company’s 2022 revenue," labor experts laud the outcome as "historic," foreshadowing future "real consequences for the shipping behemoth."

According to Mother Jones, Crane became a member of a workplace organizing committee following her injury, and will request OSHA investigate her warehouse in the near future.

OSHA assistant secretary Doug Parker said the corporation should "take these injuries seriously and implement a company-wide strategy to protect their employees” from "preventable hazards."

However, Chief of Staff and Advisor to OSHA during the Obama Administration, Debbie Berkowitz noted despite how "incredibly painful and life-altering musculoskeletal injuries and disorders can be," the $107K fine Amazon received is considered "rare … because OSHA doesn’t have a specific standard" for the contributing factors.

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Mother Jones reports:

Amazon paid nothing when warehouse workers were killed by a roof collapse during a 2021 tornado, despite the presence of identified risk factors and demands for workers to finish their shifts.

Still, Berkoqitz asserted there's “only so much denial that Amazon can do," considering the company faces other investigations in Washington, where the Amazon is based, as well as in New York. The former found the corporation's "hazardous workloads and injury rates worsened by its high-pressure discipline system," according to Hofstaedter.

Sheheryar Kaoosji, director of the Southern California based nonprofit Warehouse Worker Resource Center emphasized the fact Amazon would not be able to successfully complete millions of deliveries daily without overworking its employees.

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“When we order that two-day shipping at Amazon, there is no magic technology,” Kaoosji said. “What gets that product to you quickly is talented, hard-working, overstrained humans rushing.”

Amazon plans to appeal the fines.

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