In the days leading up to Black Friday, Reveal News obtained public injury logs from the Center for Investigative Reporting that were never previously available to the public. These logs from more than 20 Amazon facilities across the country show that the rates of serious injury at 23 fulfillment centers from which data could be obtained were more than double the industry average in 2018.
The information is incomplete but shows that in Shakopee, Minnesota in 2018, 270 workers were injured. The serious injury rate for the facility was 12.81 which is 3.2x the industry average. A more detailed report is available here.
In the gruesome case reported by Reveal, the death of Phillip Lee Terry outlines the complicity involved in covering up the safety lapses inherent in Amazon facilities. On September 2017, as he was fixing a forklift, a 1,200-pound piece of equipment fell and crushed the 59-year-old grandfather, killing him. Two hours went by before co-workers noticed his body.
“There’s no training, there’s no safety. It’s ‘Get ’er done,’” one of the coworkers said in a statement, according to Reveal.
According to a whistleblower who spoke to Reveal, Indiana officials including the Governor buried the investigation as they were competing for Amazon to build its second headquarters in Indianapolis.
Other examples of lapses in safety leading to injury abound. Last year, 24 Amazon workers were hospitalized after a robotic arm punctured a can of bear spray. In September, another worker died on the job after suffering a heart attack in the warehouse. He laid on the floor for 20 minutes before receiving any medical attention.
Amazon claims that their on-site clinics, that they call “Amcare” are “emergency care provided for injury or sudden illness before emergency medical treatment is available.” These clinics operate in most facilities to address workplace aches and pains but are not equipped to handle the severe injuries that can occur in such an environment.
The Intercept’s H. Claire Brown reports that Amcare actually “endangers the warehouse workers it’s supposed to protect” contributing to the strenuous and dangerous conditions in Amazon facilities. Brown details that in Robbinsville New Jersey, Amcare clinic staff “failed to provide adequate medical care to injured employees.” One former Amcare EMT David Troutman believes that he was fired for sending an injured employee to the hospital.
Brown explains that the official “valid” complaints filed through OSHA pale in comparison to the hundreds of complaints alleging that “employees were being sent back to work with no medical care after requesting treatment, that injured employees were being told they must wait two weeks to see if their conditions worsened before being seen by doctors and that Amcare staffers were not adequately trained. During the 2015 Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection, 26 injuries over four months were left out of recordkeeping logs. Problems with inaccurate logs are a national problem.
As Amazon continues to increase its dominance over e-commerce and attempts to more quickly ship packages the cost will be worker safety.