The Morning Call, an eastern Pennsylvania newspaper, recently broke an investigative story about brutal work conditions inside an Amazon.com warehouse in the Lehigh Valley. Information in the series was so startling that the story was quickly picked up by news giants such as The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune.
Morning Call reporter Spencer Soper interviewed 20 current and former Amazon warehouse workers during the investigation. The interviewees reported extreme temperatures, production goals that were impossible to meet, and the use of only temporary workers hired by an outside agency preventing employees from gaining full-time work there. (WCxKit)
One of Soper’s sources said he quit because of mandatory overtime in temperatures above 100 degrees. Others cited seeing 15 workers (including at least two pregnant woman) carried out one day due to heat exhaustion.
“He got light-headed, he said, and his legs cramped, symptoms he never experienced in previous warehouse jobs,” Soper reported, adding witnessed accounts of workers passing out at the water fountain and paramedics bringing people out of the warehouse in wheelchairs and on stretchers.
Soper wrote, “Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.”
Other reports said the site safety manager, Allen Forney, “had measures in place to manage heat risk before OSHA's inspection, including heat-index sensors installed that notify warehouse managers when the index exceeds 90 degrees. Amazon purchased 2,000 cooling bandannas, which were given to every employee, and those in the dock/trailer yard received cooling vests, Forney said.”
Soper reported among Amazon’s solutions to the high temperatures was to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside and replacement workers at the ready. He also concluded that the poor economy left Amazon with the power to chose and abuse an overflowing population of people who want jobs. (WCxKit)
Multiple reports through June and July to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including at least one from an emergency room doctor, led to August recommendations the company reduce heat in the warehouse and give employees breaks every hour.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing, publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
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