Amazon Employees Afraid To Report Unsafe Working Conditions & Imminent Danger for Fear of Retaliation

unsafe working conditions at Amazon - Is Amazon firing employees who speak out?

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (O.S.H.A.) is a federal agency responsible for ensuring clean, safe & healthy working conditions. It’s a part of the United States Department of Labor.

O.S.H.A enforces the Occupational Safety & Health Act which creates, implements, and enforces safety regulations in the workplace.

They inspect work places to make sure they’re clean, safe, and healthy. They also assist employees with health and safety issues. In addition, the company trains and educates both employers and workers regarding safety issues and regulations.

Most importantly, O.S.H.A. protects workers from retaliation for complaining about unsafe working conditions.

O.S.H.A requires Amazon to find & correct safety & health problems.

Amazon must first try to eliminate or reduce hazards by making changes in working conditions before resorting to personal protective equipment. Where personal protective equipment is required, Amazon must provide it at no cost to workers.

For example, Amazon should adjust the height of work tables and use lifts, jacks, and other machinery to lessen the physical burden of lifting.

They should arrange the work area to reduce twisting, turning, bending, reaching, pushing, and pulling since those contribute to lifting injuries.

Amazon should also regularly train workers to lift in a safe way. And as such, training should be in a language the workers understand.

There are many feasible ways to reduce injuries in the workplace. Amazon should solicit, welcome, and implement — not discourage, penalize, or ignore — suggestions from workers on how to do so.

In addition to this, Amazon should inform workers about chemical hazards.

They need to provide regular and effective safety training, as well as keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.

For example, Amazon should perform safety tests such as air sampling, provide protective equipment, and post injury and illness data where workers can see them.

Amazon must notify O.S.H.A. within 8 hours of a worker fatality.

They should notify O.S.H.A. within 24 hours of a work-related inpatient hospitalization.

Amazon should prominently display official O.S.H.A. Job Safety & Health — It’s the Law posters describing rights and responsibilities under the O.S.H. Act.

Amazon must not retaliate or discriminate against employees who use their rights under the law to report work-related injuries or illnesses.

If an Amazon employee observes dirty, unhealthy, or unsafe working conditions, s/he can report these conditions / retaliatory actions to O.S.H.A.

If an employee has been harassed, punished, or fired for complaining about said working conditions, s/he can also report these conditions and retaliatory actions to O.S.H.A.

With or without the help of an attorney, the employee has the right to file a confidential safety and health complaint and request an O.S.H.A. inspection of the employee’s workplace. The employee should file a complaint as soon as possible. Although the complaint can be anonymous, a signed complaint is more likely to result in an onsite inspection.

There are several ways to submit a complaint to O.S.H.A.
  • An employee may go online and fill out a complaint using a computer / mobil device.
  • Sh/e may download an O.S.H.A. complaint form and fax, mail, or email it to O.S.H.A.
  • S/he may also simply fax, mail, or email a letter to O.S.H.A.
If the employee is not represented by a lawyer, perhaps the best way to submit a thorough complaint is to gather all relevant information and call the local O.S.H.A. offices or the national toll free number 800-321-OSHA (800-321-6742), preferably during business hours. An O.S.H.A. representative can then walk the employee through the complaint and answer questions.

Amazon employees can visit their local O.S.H.A. offices as well and talk to a representative in person. O.S.H.A. has 10 regional offices and 90 area offices. The 10 regional offices are located in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Employees should gather as much information as possible for any complaint about unsafe working conditions.

This includes the name, address, and telephone number of the Amazon worksite; the type of Amazon worksite, the name and job title of the manager; and the name, address, telephone number, and email address of the employee.

In addition, it includes a detailed description of the hazard. For instance, the specific location of the hazard in the Amazon worksite, work tasks performed near the hazard, how often the work tasks are performed, for how long, the number of shifts, and when they each begin and end.

Furthermore, it should include the number of employees at the Amazon worksite, the number of employees who may be exposed to the hazard, how close the employees are to the hazard, employees already injured by the hazard, and whether such employees received medical treatment.

Employees should also document how long the hazard has existed, whether Amazon knows about the hazard, whether Amazon tried to correct the hazard, and how long the employee expects the hazard to continue to exist. If in doubt, have the information available.

To be specific about your rights, an Amazon worker has the right to:

• Report an illness or injury caused by unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation (i.e., being harassed, punished, or terminated).
• Ask Amazon to fix any unsafe conditions or violations of O.S.H.A. standards without fear of retaliation.
• Refuse to work in unsafe or dangerous conditions without fear of retaliation.
• Work without fear of unsafe machinery or equipment or toxic chemicals or other fumes.
• Receive free and effective work safety equipment such as gloves, goggles, or masks.
• Get training and educational resources regarding O.S.H.A.’s compliance requirements.
• Ask O.S.H.A. for an inspection or investigation of an unsafe or dangerous condition in the workplace.
• See reports of threats or danger that an O.S.H.A. investigator finds.

Even if an Amazon employee is not in imminent danger, s/he can still report an unsafe condition to his or her supervisor and Human Resources Department. If they fail to remedy the problem, then the worker may file a complaint with O.S.H.A.

It’s always a good idea for an employee to document what s/he observes, any conversations about it, and any response received.

It may be good to send a copy of such documentation to someone who would willingly testify that it was a contemporaneous observation — in other words, that the employee wrote it down when it happened and when his or her memory was fresh.

Note that many states also have laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions, and state agencies that enforce those laws. States may adopt health and safety codes and other labor laws that are even stricter than what O.S.H.A. requires.

For example, California has the most Amazon warehouse workers of any state.

The California Occupational Safety & Health Act gives workers the right to file complaints about workplace safety and health hazards.

Although it is similar to the federal law, California’s regulations are usually stricter than the federal standard. Thus, California may require Amazon to pay for steel toed shoes in situations where the federal government might not do the same.

California may also allow the Amazon employee to file a private lawsuit in state court even before the agency’s investigation has concluded, or even if the agency finds no violation.

O.S.H.A. or the equivalent state agency may decide to file a lawsuit on behalf of an Amazon employee.

In a lawsuit brought by O.S.H.A. or an equivalent state agency, the employee may seek a court injunction ordering Amazon to remedy unsafe working conditions or health and safety policies.

The employee may also seek monetary damages such as lost wages, lost benefits, back pay, front pay, and more. The employee may seek reinstatement to his or her former position. In extreme cases, the employee may seek punitive damages. And the employee may seek evidence to use in a private right of action.

The federal O.S.H. Act does not provide for a private right of action. But some state O.S.H.A. statutes or workers compensation laws do. In a private right of action the employee may seek similar remedies on his or her own behalf. If the federal agency finds that Amazon violated the O.S.H. Act, that’s powerful evidence in support of a private action.

Unsafe Working Conditions & Imminent Danger

If possible, an Amazon employee would be well advised to hire a competent and experienced employment law attorney to assist with a complaint or lawsuit.

But time is of the essence, especially if there is an imminent danger. If necessary, the employee can always hire an attorney later in the process. An attorney can represent the employee in a federal agency, state agency, federal court, or state court. And, the attorney may be able to find additional options available to the employee based on his or her particular circumstances.

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