Amazon warehouse workers sustain serious injuries more frequently than employees working in similar jobs across thousands of other companies, a report by unions concluded on Tuesday.
The injury figures were collected from employers by OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is a watchdog within the US Department of Labor. The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), a coalition of four American labor unions, used the numbers to compare injury rates across the companies listed as “general warehouse and storage.”
Last year, the injury rate per 100 full-time employees was 6.5 at Amazon compared to four at other warehouses. In terms of serious injuries, that figure was 5.9, nearly double the 3.3 reported by similar warehouse operations. The SOC also found that the average time Amazon workers took off to recover from mishaps was about a month and a half – a week longer than the time it took for staff working at other warehouses.
Remember, these numbers are reported by businesses to OSHA. It's possible some organizations may be more honest than others in disclosing incidents to the watchdog, which could skew the figures, or they could all be as honest as each other. Just something to keep in mind.
Amazon employees were injured twice as frequently as those working at its rival Walmart (6.5 versus 3.0).
When the SOC surveyed just under 1,000 Amazon staff online, 42 per cent of them said they had experienced pain or injury at work that forced them to forgo shifts. Workers have to meet specific targets, such as completing a certain number of deliveries per day or wrapping up a certain number packages per hour, according to some who earlier spoke to El Reg.
Failing to meet those requirements will lead to bad performance reviews and termination.
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The unions said in their report that injury rates were higher at warehouses that use robots to ferry packages across the site:
In 2019, the last year of injury data available prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon’s sortable facilities with robotic technology had a serious injury rate of 7.9 per 100 workers, more than 54 percent higher than the serious injury rate at non-robotic sortable facilities in the same year (5.1).
After the SOC looked at numbers from 2017 to 2020, it concluded Amazon’s warehouse working conditions are more dangerous because staff are pushed to fetch and box-up packages as quickly as they can.
“The company’s obsession with speed has come at a huge cost for Amazon’s workforce,” the coalition said in its report [PDF].
“For more than a decade, Amazon has made headlines for dangerous health and safety conditions in its facilities ... Workers at Amazon experienced substantially higher rates of workplace injuries than non-Amazon workers in the same industries during these four years. Amazon workers continued to suffer these higher rates of injury despite years of protests against the company’s high-pressure environment and production quotas.”
No one at Amazon was prepared to comment. ®