The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited workplace safety and health violations at three Amazon warehouses in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, New York, the agency announced January 18. OSHA also issued hazard alert letters to all three warehouses after finding workers exposed to ergonomic hazards.
Amazon faces new proposed penalties totaling $60,269 for violations at the Deltona, New Windsor, and Waukegan warehouses. Violations at the Deltona warehouse include exposing workers to struck-by hazards. Investigations of similar hazards are ongoing at Amazon’s Aurora, Colorado; Nampa, Idaho; and Castleton, New York, warehouses.
OSHA investigators found that warehouse workers at the Deltona, New Windsor, and Waukegan warehouses are at high risk for lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders (MDSs) related to the following:
- High frequency with which workers are required to lift packages and other items;
- Heavy weight of the items;
- Awkward postures, such as twisting, bending, and long reaches while lifting; and
- Long hours required to complete assigned tasks.
After reviewing required on-site injury logs, agency investigators discovered that Amazon warehouse workers experienced high rates of MSDs.
In December, OSHA proposed $29,008 in penalties for recordkeeping violations at the Aurora, Castleton, Deltona, Nampa, New Windsor, and Waukegan warehouses.
There is no federal ergonomics or MSD standard. MSD hazards and injuries in the workplace are cited under OSHA’s authority established by the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
“Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary of Labor for occupational safety and health, said in an agency statement. “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.”
“Our hope is that the findings of our investigations inspire Amazon and other warehouses to make the safety and health of their workers a core value,” Parker added.
In addition to the MSD hazards, the agency found that warehouse workers received inadequate care from Amazon’s first-aid contractor, according to OSHA’s hazard alert letter. Workers at the Deltona warehouse also were exposed to heat-related hazards. The agency launched an indoor and outdoor heat-related hazards National Emphasis Program (NEP) last April.
Last summer, OSHA also unveiled a regional emphasis program (REP) in Region 3 (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) focused on ergonomic and heat hazards in warehouse operations.
OSHA issued a hazard alert letter to Amazon last April after six contractors were fatally injured and another severely injured when a tornado struck the company’s Edwardsville, Illinois, warehouse.
Last year, Amazon and the National Safety Council (NSC) launched an MSD Pledge that 100 organizations signed, making commitments to address workplace MSDs. Amazon’s corporate contributions support the NSC’s MSD Solutions Lab, which released a white paper last year titled Preventing Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders: A Systematic Review of Current Interventions and Future Research Directions. In 2019, Amazon provided funds for NSC scholarships supporting women in safety.
The NSC is a not-for-profit organization whose members include environment, safety, and health professionals focused on preventing injuries and deaths in the home, in the workplace, and on the roadways.