Legal Guide

Amazon Fined for Warehouse Workplace Safety Violations

Amazon workers have publicly complained about safety problems at warehouses. That got the attention of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), which fined the company for the first time for musculoskeletal injuries.

Safety violations go hand-in-hand with workplace injuries. Working in a warehouse can be difficult for physical labor. Add to it the hazards of forklifts and trucks driving in and out of the facility, it’s a recipe for back injuries, joint strains, and broken bones. If you work in a warehouse and have been injured on the job, Castillo & Associates can help you get the workers’ compensation benefits. Call us at 800-497-9774 today.

What is Amazon’s Priority? Speed or Safety?

Amazon was issued a safety citation with findings that are consistent with what some workers have long claimed:

  • Amazon’s warehouses and fulfillment facilities emphasize speed over safety
  • Workers suffer lower-back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders at high rates

The OSHA citation concluded that Amazon fails to keep workers safe and doesn’t adequately protect them from risks likely to cause serious physical harm. The agency seeks $60,269 in fines, the first federal fines for Amazon due to worker musculoskeletal injuries. The Amazon facilities cited are in New York, Florida, and Illinois.

The limit for OSHA fines for these injuries is low compared to other types, but they are on the high end for musculoskeletal injuries.

OSHA’s investigation was extensive, according to Wired, and the agency wants Amazon to implement basic ergonomic principles to prevent injuries. The same investigation resulted in OSHA citing Amazon for not recording and reporting workplace injuries and illnesses in December.

Not surprisingly, Amazon announced that it would appeal the agency’s findings. The company claims the allegations “don’t reflect the reality of safety at our sites.” Amazon claims it has invested significant time and resources to lower musculoskeletal risks, and injury rates have fallen nearly 15 percent from 2019 to 2021.

A coalition of labor unions released a study in 2021 showing that Amazon’s warehouse injury rates are often at least twice that of Walmart, its nearest competitor, and more than three times the injury average for the nation’s overall workforce.

Problems With Heavy Packages and Health Clinic Management

OSHA usually tries to convince companies to prevent future injuries through letters of inspection that suggest improving processes causing injury. Amazon received three of these “hazard” letters.

The one sent to the Illinois facility lists more than 20 injuries caused when workers lost control of packages weighing more than 50 pounds:

  • Sprains
  • Fractures
  • Bruises
  • Lacerations to faces, arms, feet, and other body parts

The letter to the Florida facility stated:

  • There was inadequate supervision of clinical personnel with appropriate clinical skills at the company’s internal worker clinic. There were times when athletic trainers went beyond their scope of training by conducting or supervising examinations
  • “Amazon does not appear to have any quality management processes in place for its clinical staff with major deficiencies in documenting care. This represents a dramatic deviation from standard practices for clinicians in the US.”

OSHA is investigating other Amazon warehouses in Colorado, Idaho, and New York.

California Legislation Mean to Make Amazon Warehouses Safer

California was the first state to implement a law addressing warehouse working conditions in 2021. The company closely tracks Amazon workers’ productivity. Failure to make quotas can result in discipline and termination.

The law requires companies to state to their staff their production expectations clearly and states employees can’t be fired or retaliated against if they don’t meet unsafe quotas, according to NPR.

The state Labor Commission can issue citations to companies that violate the law. The agency can also access workers’ compensation data to determine if facilities with high injury rates are using unsafe quotas.

Employers also can’t use algorithms to track rests and bathroom breaks. They expressly prohibit firing workers who don’t meet unsafe quotas because they were on a rest break, bathroom break, or due to compliance with health and safety laws.

Speak to an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Law Firm Today

Increasingly warehouse workers are seen as cogs in a machine, not human beings who should be kept safe. If you work in a warehouse and want to file a workers’ compensation claim or your claim’s been denied, seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

With more than three decades of dedicated experience, the worker's comp attorneys at Castillo & Associates have the skills to handle the complex legal and insurance challenges associated with California workers’ compensation claims. With our team on your side, you can focus on your family and a full recovery. If you are an injured worker, contact the firm today for more information on your rights and legal options.

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