Are Amazon Warehouse Workers at Greater Risk of Injuries?June 7, 2022
According to a recent study, Amazon warehouse workers are twice as likely to suffer a serious injury than warehouse employees who work for other companies. In 2021, Amazon employed approximately 30 percent of all U.S. warehouse workers, yet it was responsible for close to half of the injuries in the warehouse industry. The main reason for this statistic is not the actual work, but Amazon’s alleged obsession with speed and the grueling pace that workers are expected to maintain. Although Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, pledged to make Amazon the “Earth’s Safest Place to Work,” the injuries at warehouses across the country increased between 2020 and 2021. Many of these injuries were serious and prevented the workers from being able to perform their regular job responsibilities. If you were injured while working at an Amazon facility, you may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
What Did the Study Find?
The recent study was conducted by the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), which is a coalition of labor unions that analyzed workplace safety data that was reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) between 2017 and 2020. In addition to being injured more frequently, Amazon warehouse workers suffered more severe injuries than warehouse workers from other companies. As a result, workers had to take an average of over 46 days off from work, which is a week longer than the average across the warehouse industry in the United States. In addition, Walmart is the largest private employer in the country, and Amazon’s largest retail competitor, yet it has an injury rate that is less than half that of Amazon.
The SOC report found that in 2021, there were 38,334 total injuries at Amazon warehouses, with approximately 34,000 considered serious enough that the employees had to miss work or could no longer perform their job responsibilities.
Despite its lofty goal of becoming the safest place to work, Amazon warehouse injuries increased between 2020 and 2021. According to an Amazon spokesperson, the spike in injuries was due to a pandemic-related hiring spree. The retail giant hired tens of thousands of additional warehouse workers to meet the unforeseen demands of online shopping that people were doing during the height of the pandemic. The Amazon spokesperson stated that although there was an increase in injuries between 2020 and 2021 because of the slew of new employees that were being hired and trained, Amazon’s recordable injury rate in 2021 declined by 13 percent compared with 2019. However, the spokesperson said that the company understands that there is still room for improvement, and that they will continue to make safety improvements that protect their employees and prevent serious workplace injuries.
Why Are Amazon Warehouses More Dangerous than Other Facilities?
It has been widely reported that Amazon warehouse workers are pushed to the limit when it comes to productivity. One warehouse in Eastvale, California, pushed its workers so hard during the previous holiday season that they were able to get a million packages out the door in 24 hours. The reward for this grueling work was a T-shirt that read the Million Unit Club. Unfortunately, this relentless pace, coupled with heavy lifting, repetitive movement, and overuse, caused many warehouse workers to suffer serious injuries. One employee at the Eastvale warehouse suffered bulging disks, joint inflammation, and chronic pain from the work she did at the Amazon warehouse. She is no longer able to work or perform daily activities such as walking the dog or climbing the stairs. Even getting out of a chair is painful for the woman. Unfortunately, according to her medical records, it is unlikely that her condition will improve.
According to the SOC report, an Amazon warehouse pamphlet was obtained by technology news site Motherboard, which encouraged its warehouse workers to think of themselves as “industrial athletes.” The pamphlet highlighted the fact that workers need to train their bodies to be able to be at their peak performance level. Depending on the worker’s position at the warehouse, they may walk up to 13 miles per day or lift a total of 20,000 pounds by the time they complete their shift. The pamphlet also urged employees to exercise and maintain a healthy diet on their days off so that they are able to burn the 400 calories per hour that they are expected to exert. In addition, although Amazon did instruct workers on ways to safely lift heavy objects, or reach for something on a top rack, they were also encouraged to break the rules if it meant keeping up with the rigorous pace. If they wasted precious time asking for help lifting an extra-heavy item, workers often risked injuries, knowing that they could lose their job if they fell behind.
What Types of Injuries Do Amazon Warehouse Workers Suffer?
Some of the most common warehouse injuries that occur in Amazon warehouses include sprains, strains, and repetitive stress injuries. However, the following are examples of severe, debilitating injuries that have occurred in Amazon warehouses around the United States:
- A maintenance worker was crushed to death by a forklift at an Amazon warehouse in Indiana.
- A warehouse worker at a Plainfield, Indiana, fulfillment center was sent to perform maintenance on a forklift. While he was working underneath the machine’s forks and metal platform, the machine fell and crushed the worker. It was determined that the accident could have been prevented if a pole had been used to prop the forklift during maintenance.
- Amazon workers at the Eastvale warehouse became ill after the smell of gas permeated through the warehouse. Workers started vomiting, got headaches, and felt a burning sensation in their chest and nose. One employee passed out. When the fire department arrived, they found a damaged gas line that was funneling gas into the building. Employees were told that they would have to use personal time if they wanted to leave.
- Another Eastvale warehouse worker developed multiple urinary tract infections because she had to choose between taking a bathroom break or falling behind on her quota.
- A warehouse worker at the Chattanooga, Tennessee, warehouse suffered a dislocated patella, which required surgery.
- An Amazon employee who worked at the Greenville, South Carolina, warehouse suffered a wrist injury while stacking boxes onto a pallet.
- Another Amazon warehouse worker suffered from back pain from repetitive motions and lifting heavy items. He then injured his back after falling onto a pallet.
What Steps Is Amazon Taking to Improve Safety Conditions?
As part of Jeff Bezos’s pledge for the company to become Earth’s Safest Place to Work, Amazon has acknowledged the need for improved safety protocols and plans to introduce a series of wellness programs with the goal of reducing injury rates by 50 percent by 2025. In 2021, Amazon spent $300 million on worker safety improvements. To treat sprains and strains, which are among the most common types of injuries, Amazon is developing automated staffing schedules that will allow workers to rotate through different jobs, which means they can use other muscle-tendon groups. It remains to be seen if these changes will be implemented, and whether Amazon warehouse workers will continue to be at an increased risk for injuries.
What If I Am Injured While Working at An Amazon Warehouse?
Unfortunately, Amazon does not have an impressive record when it comes to providing the Workers’ Compensation benefits that employees deserve. In fact, according to a report published by The Guardian, in addition to terminating several employees after they were injured on the job, they failed to provide the Workers’ Compensation benefits to which they were entitled. If you suffered a serious injury while working at an Amazon warehouse, you have a right to Workers’ Compensation benefits. Too often, however, recovering compensation for a warehouse-related injury can be difficult. An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer will work tirelessly to protect your rights and ensure that you receive the maximum benefits available, including the following:
- All medical expenses related to your injury
- Lost wages for the days you missed
- Disability if the injury prevents you from returning to your job in the same capacity, or at all
- Rehabilitation services
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Death benefits if the injury resulted in a fatality. This covers funeral expenses up to $7,000 and provides the surviving family members with a percentage of the deceased’s wages, which are adjusted annually to reflect the cost of living. Death benefits will continue for 12 years unless the surviving spouse remarries or the children turn 18.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Injured Warehouse Workers
If you were injured while working at an Amazon warehouse, you are strongly urged to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the financial benefits for which you are entitled. We are on your side and will continue to fight for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.