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Warehouse safety citations could cost Amazon seconds in revenue

That'll definitely teach them to look out for their workers

Amazon has been hit with a trio of citations from US safety inspectors who say their investigations found "serious violations" of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at warehouses in New York, Illinois and Florida.

All three warehouses were found to be in violation of section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, which requires employers to create a working environment safe from hazards likely to cause death or serious injury, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Per the DoJ, workers at all three warehouses "were exposed to ergonomic hazards which put them at high risk for lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders," or MSDs.

The work which puts Amazon employees at risk includes twisting, bending and reaching as much as nine times per minute. That has led to a DART rate (days away, restricted, or transferred) at the warehouse in Waukegan, Illinois, nearly double the 4.7 injuries per 1,000 workers industry average, OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Douglas L Parker told NPR.

Parker said that OSHA's inspections found work processes were designed for speed, but not safety, which has led to serious injuries. "While Amazon has developed impressive systems to make sure its customers' orders are shipped efficiently and quickly, the company has failed to show the same level of commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of its workers," Parker said.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told The Register that safety in warehouses has been improving, that Amazon is fully cooperating with inspectors and that "the government's allegations don't reflect the reality of safety at our sites". She said the retail giant intends to appeal.

In addition to the three citations issued yesterday, OSHA also cited Amazon at its Deltona, Florida, warehouse for exposing workers to hazards from falling boxes, and in December OSHA cited Amazon for failing to report or record injuries and illnesses at six of its warehouses – the three cited today, along with warehouses in Aurora, Colorado; Nampa, Idaho; and Castleton, New York.

Amazon has previously been accused of suppressing COVID-19 numbers in its facilities during the pandemic.

Smile disappears as Amazon shutters charity

Amazon shoppers who have taken advantage of AmazonSmile, the company's program which allocates a portion of a purchase to a charity of the shopper's choice, won't be able to do so for much longer – the company is ending the program on February 20 as a cost-cutting measure.

Amazon said that Smile hadn't had the impact the company hoped so it will instead shift charitable giving to its own programs, like Amazon's Housing Equity Fund or its Future Engineer program. 

CEO Andy Jassy is making deep cuts at Amazon to save money amid a larger economic slowdown that has eaten into the company's profits to the point where its predicting a potential zero profit scenario in Q4 despite a 15 percent increase in revenue in Q3. 

"We're determined to do every day better for our customers, our employees, and the world at large," Amazon said yesterday, less than two weeks after announcing 18,000 layoffs. 

"OSHA's investigation regarding workplace safety hazards at Amazon warehouses continues. And our Office is investigating possible fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others," said US Attorney Damian Williams. 

According to OSHA, Amazon faces a whopping $60,269 for the three citations levied against it today, while the December citations put it at risk of forfeiting another $29,008. According to OSHA's website, its fine schedule was last modified in December 2022, though OSHA notes fines can increase for repeat violations.

Amazon has 15 days to respond to the citations or risk giving up what it earns in mere seconds. ®

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