What Should Workers Know About Amazon Warehouse Accidents?May 19, 2021
An investigation by Reveal, a nonprofit division of the Center for Investigative Reporting, has found that e-commerce giant Amazon may be underreporting injuries at some of its warehouses.
Reveal’s key findings include the following:
- Amazon has downplayed and underreported rising injury rates at its warehouses. A doctor who inspected Amazon warehouses for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that workers at some facilities were discouraged from reporting injuries and seeking outside medical care.
- Injury rates are higher at Amazon warehouses with heavy automation, despite the company’s claims that automation would improve worker safety.
- Amazon injury rates have steadily increased each year since 2016, based on internal safety reports at 150 fulfillment centers, despite Amazon’s claims of investing millions of dollars into safety programs. Internal reports studied by Reveal found that Amazon repeatedly fails to hit safety targets.
- In 2019, Amazon recorded 14,000 serious injuries in its fulfillment centers. This equates to an injury rate of 7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees, nearly double the industry standard.
- A company initiative designed to reduce injuries resulting in lost time or time off actually prevented these injuries from being counted as lost time, skewing the actual rate of injuries.
- Internal reports showed that injury rates were higher during peak times, such as Prime Day and the holiday shopping season. Reveal’s investigation also found that workers at robotic fulfillment centers were expected to pick up and scan roughly 400 items an hour, compared with the standard rate of 100 items per hour at other facilities.
- Last year, an investigation by NBC News found that Amazon’s third-party package delivery contractors also implement lax safety measures.
- In April 2018, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health called Amazon one of the most dangerous places to work in the United States because of its lack of concern for worker safety, failure to report job injuries, and a pattern of unsafe working conditions.
- Amazon has regularly been investigated by OSHA for various safety issues and violations since 2011. In 2016, OSHA fined Amazon for failing to report worker injuries.
- Employee lawsuits reveal mistreatment by Amazon, including firing or attempted buy-outs of injured warehouse workers.
- Some employees report being dropped by Amazon’s Workers’ Compensation insurer or not receiving all the Workers’ Compensation pay for which they were entitled.
- Most recently, Amazon had to shut down facilities because of a large number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.
Warehouse accidents and injuries can happen in any company, owing to the nature of the work. Amazon and other employers are duty-bound to provide a safe work environment and to be responsive when a worker is injured. They are also responsible for accurately reporting injuries and not penalizing employees who make Workers’ Compensation claims.
What are Examples of Amazon Warehouse Accidents and Injuries?
Many of Amazon workers’ injuries can be tied to the company’s need for speed and increased automation. In many Amazon warehouses, robots pick merchandise and drop it at a workstation manned by an employee. That employee must scan up to 400 items an hour, regardless of the weight and size of a particular package.
In other Amazon warehouses, workers may walk many miles during one shift to collect merchandise for orders, subjecting them to slip and fall accidents and being hit by falling objects. Some employees use forklifts or other warehouse machinery that can be unsafe.
Common injuries in Amazon and other warehouses include the following:
Repetitive stress injuries. Workers who make the same repetitive motion for hours on end, such as bending, reaching, or lifting, can suffer from repetitive stress injuries. These include carpal tunnel syndrome; thumb, wrist, and hand injuries; shoulder and neck pain; ganglion cysts; and many other injuries. Employers should rotate employees who have repetitive-motion jobs and reduce their productivity goals to alleviate repeated stress.
Overexertion injuries. Repeatedly lifting heavy objects is a major contributor to damages caused by overexertion. The neck, spine, lower back, and shoulders are prime targets for injuries caused by heavy or repeated lifting. Employers should ensure employees are fully trained and have reasonable productivity goals in jobs that require exertion.
Forklift accidents. Forklifts are necessary but dangerous equipment in most warehouses. Employees must be fully trained and experienced in operating forklifts to help reduce accidents, which can include:
- Forklift pinning or crushing another worker
- Two forklifts colliding
- Forklifts overturning because of load
- Shelves and objects falling from the force of a forklift
Slip and fall accidents. Warehouse workers spend much time on their feet and walking. Warehouses stock thousands of products, some of which may be spilled or otherwise left on the warehouse floor. Residue, debris, cords, paper, and other items may also be common on workplace floors. Employees can easily slip, trip, or fall on such surfaces, especially when handling large items that reduce their visibility.
Being hit by falling objects. Most warehouses store stock on high shelving, often stacking products. Human error, carelessness, inadequate operational procedures, and other reasons may contribute to a severe injury from a falling object. These injuries often occur to the head, neck, shoulders, and back.
Loading dock injuries. Loading docks are essential to any warehouse but come with the risk of injury. Loading trucks and moving orders on the dock often result in overexertion and forklift injuries. Falls are also common.
COVID-19. Amazon and other warehouses that failed to protect employees from COVID-19 adequately found themselves dealing with rampant outbreaks. In many cases, facilities were shut down. Lack of proper protective equipment, inadequate cleansing procedures, and lack of social distancing were often to blame in warehouse COVID-19 illnesses.
Warehouse workers who are injured on the job should file a Workers’ Compensation claim as soon as possible.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?
Maryland employers are required to provide Workers’ Compensation insurance for their employees. The first steps for any worker, including a new or temporary employee, who is injured in a warehouse accident are to:
- Report the accident to a superior immediately.
- Seek medical care as soon as possible. Keep all records and receipts.
- Pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim.
- Hire a lawyer who specializes in Workers’ Compensation.
Employees in the following situations should consider filing a Workers’ Compensation claim:
- Employee was injured directly on the job.
- Employee was injured on the job and could not return to work at all.
- Employee was injured on the job and could not return to work in the same capacity or at the same pay range.
- Employee was fired because f their work-related injury or illness.
- Employee was forced to work in unsafe conditions.
Sometimes an employee or injury is not covered under an employer’s Workers’ Compensation policy. Other times, claims are denied. Although having a lawyer to assist with filing a Workers’ Compensation claim is not required, workers should understand that the process is complex, deadline-driven, and detailed.
Workers’ Compensation insurance companies will always try to get out of paying a fair and just settlement. Or they will offer benefits that do not meet the actual needs and damages sustained by the workplace accident victim. In addition, employers are not known for going to bat for employees in a Workers’ Compensation claim.
A victim should not have to deal with medical recovery and pain while also trying to get what is rightfully theirs after a workplace accident. Injured workers should allow a lawyer who focuses on Workers’ Compensation handle the process, negotiations, and litigation if necessary.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are on Your Side After a Workplace Accident
If you have been injured on the job or have suffered an occupational illness, reach out to the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We have helped hundreds of workers recover from a workplace accident. We will work tirelessly to secure the full benefits for which you are entitled. Call us at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.