If you’ve ordered from Amazon lately, chances are you were able to get your package within a day or even a few hours of making the purchase. The speediness is certainly convenient, and even feels futuristic, especially when considering that Amazon robots were likely involved—Amazon currently has over 200,000 robots working in its warehouses! As exciting as that is, you’ll probably be disappointed to hear that these robots have actually had a negative effect on warehouse workers. Although the robots were purportedly introduced to help keep warehouse workers safe, Amazon warehouse workers are anything but safe. In fact, serious injuries have consistently gone up every year in Amazon warehouses since 2016, and the numbers are highest in robotics warehouses.
Serious injuries are defined as work-related injuries and illnesses that result either in days away from work or the necessity to restrict job duties. In 2019, the overall rate of serious injuries for Amazon warehouse workers was 7.7 per 100 employees, which is 33% higher than it was in 2016 and almost double the national industry average of 4 serious injuries per 100 employees. When looked at individually, some Amazon warehouses had injury rates as high as 4 or 6 times the national average, with rates increasing dramatically during peak shopping seasons. So why are Amazon warehouse worker injuries so high?
WHY AMAZON WAREHOUSE WORKER INJURIES ARE SO HIGH
According to a number of articles written on the subject of Amazon warehouse worker injuries (including in The Atlantic and Reveal News), the numbers are high because speed has been prioritized over all else, including worker safety. Despite Amazon’s claim that the robots help to keep workers safe, the robotics warehouses that handle small- and medium-sized packages have a 50% higher overall injury average than the non-robotic warehouses. Instead of helping workers, the robots have resulted in higher and higher production targets. Where some workers were once expected to process 100 items per hour, they’re now expected to process 400 items per hour.
Interviewed workers reported a range of violations of safety standards that put their health at risk, as well as a general atmosphere that prioritized speed over worker health and safety. Although some warehouses have better records than others, the types of violations were similar in the warehouses with the highest rates of injury. Production workers and safety managers told reporters of:
- Ever-increasing production target rates
- Pressure to break safety rules in order to keep up with production quotas
- Policy of terminating workers who do not meet their quotas 3 times
- Discouragement of time-out to seek help or nurse injuries
- Failure to provide modifications to meet doctor’s orders regarding restricted job duties
- Rush to open new warehouses without properly training employees
- Failure to mandate extra rest breaks during peak seasons
- Pressure to return to work before injuries have healed
- Lack of support and training for new safety specialists
- Mandatory overtime
- Failure to rotate jobs in order to minimize risk of repetitive stress injuries
- Systematic hiding of injuries and pressuring workers to ignore injuries
In February of this year, a group of U.S. Senators wrote a letter to Jeff Bezos, urging him to overhaul the “profit-at-all-cost culture” at Amazon in order to protect worker safety.
TYPES OF WAREHOUSE WORKER INJURIES
The types of injuries suffered by Amazon warehouse workers are similar to those that afflict warehouse workers all over the country—but at higher rates. Warehouse worker injuries typically involve:
- Forklift accidents
- Workers hit by an object
- Workers caught between objects
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Overexertion injuries
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Exposure to hazardous materials
Even when management and employees adhere to safety protocols and take worker health seriously, accidents do happen, and the workers’ compensation system is in place to help ease the financial burden the follows. Unfortunately, sometimes managers and employers try to stand between workers and their rightful benefits. This is wrong.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a workplace accident, call a workers’ compensation lawyer right away.
Experienced workers’ comp attorneys in San Diego at The Law Office of Matthew Russell
At The Law Office of Matthew Russell, we fight on behalf of injured workers every day. If you’ve suffered a workplace injury, we can help. We’re committed to helping injured workers in industrial settings of all kinds get the benefits they need to cover their medical expenses and lost wages. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, call The Law Office of Matthew Russell at (619) 544-1506 today.