A US government agency on Wednesday ordered Amazon.com Inc. sued for failing to protect warehouse workers by exposing them to ergonomic hazards that resulted in serious injuries.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said inspections at three Amazon warehouses in New Windsor, New York; Waukegan, Illinois and Deltona, Florida found that workers had a higher risk of lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders.
It said the risk stemmed from the high frequency with which workers had to lift heavy packages; adopting awkward positions, such as twisting, stooping and reaching far; and work long hours to complete their tasks.
The agency said workers at the Florida facility were also exposed to hazards where goods that were unevenly stacked or unsecured could collapse.
Doug Parker, the head of OSHA, said Amazon’s processes were “designed for speed but not safety, and resulted in serious injuries to employees.”
The Seattle-based online retailer faces $60,269 in potential fines for the violations, which OSHA classified as “serious” but not intentional.
“We take the safety and health of our employees very seriously, we strongly disagree with these allegations and intend to appeal,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement. “We have fully cooperated and the government’s allegations do not reflect the reality of security at our sites.”
Amazon has said it invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year to ensure worker safety.
OSHA last month cited Amazon for 14 administration violations, with $29,008 in possible fines, in its investigation.
OSHA: Amazon failed to record some warehouse injuries
The investigation followed referrals from U.S. attorney Damian Williams’ Manhattan office.
Investigations at Amazon sites in Aurora, Colorado, Nampa, Idaho, and Castleton, New York continue.
Amazon ended 2021 with 1.61 million employees.
Critics have long accused Amazon of putting profit before safety by requiring employees to work too fast and skip breaks to meet quotas.
Safety concerns, including after the deaths of six workers when an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, collapsed during a tornado in December 2021, have helped fuel union campaigns in Amazon warehouses across the country.
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