Does Amazon’s productivity speed mean you are put at risk?
As reported by The Atlantic on November 25, 2019 that over the holidays Amazon moves millions of packages and an internal injury report suggests that this speed is coming at the expense of worker safety. One example of this would be Carol Dixon. She worked at the Amazon warehouse in Eastvale, California as a stower, which means she stood in one spot and filled an endless stream of merchandise racks. Carol would grab the item from a box, scan it, lift it to the rack, and scan the new location. Having to pick up some of the heavier items, Carol would have to squat down in order to lift them up. This process was very quick and she would have to scan a new item every 11 seconds in order to meet her quota, Dixon said Amazon always knew when she didn’t. Scanning over 300 items an hour and being tracked constantly, Carol knew if she did not hit her target speed she would be written up and potentially fired. Dixon had to quit her job with Amazon after two months, this was due to the lifting of the packages destroying her back. A doctor approved by Amazon diagnosed her with bulging discs, a back sprain, joint inflammation, and chronic pain. The doctor also determined that the injury was 100 percent due to her job with Amazon. Thus forcing Dixon to quit her job with Amazon and leaving her unable to do simple day to day tasks without pain.
The workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Eastvale worked at such a fast pace that last holiday season they hit a target of a million packages sent out in 24 hours. As Amazon continues to be known for its speed and technological innovation the company is now valued at well over $800 billion. Amazon is also the nation’s second largest employer and their CEO, Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men alive. But, an investigation by Reveal has found that the company’s speed obsession has caused their warehouses to be hotspots for injuries. Reveal accumulated the internal injury reports from 23 of Amazon’s fulfillment centers finding that they had an average of 9.6 serious injuries per 100 full time employees. The industry average is 4 making Amazon’s over double. Although some of Amazon’s warehouses were at or below the industry average some centers were more dangerous. Dixon was one of 422 injuries recorded in the Eastvale warehouse last year. The rate of serious injuries, injuries that required job restrictions or days off, were more than four times the industry average. David Michaels, the former head of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said that “Amazon needs to take a hard look at the facilities where so many workers are being hurt and either redesign the work processes, replace the top managers, or both, because serious-injury rates this high should not be acceptable by any employer.”
Amazon officials have declined repeated interview requests but an Amazon spokesperson, Ashley Robinson, provided a written response to some of Reveal’s questions. “We know that by making a conservative choice to not place an injured associate back into a job, we are elevating restricted and lost time rates as a company, but with the intent to benefit the associate,” Robinson wrote. Many Amazon employees disagreed with this saying that they had a different experience. The Amazon workers said they felt as though they were cast aside like damaged goods or sent back to jobs where they worsened their injuries. Dixon said her doctor ordered not to pull or lift heavy objects and to switch between sitting and standing although she was not given a chair and heavy boxes kept coming her way. “For Amazon all they care about is getting the job done and getting it out fast and not realizing how it’s affecting us and our own bodies,” Dixon said. Amazon does instruct workers on the safe way to move and handle equipment but many said they had to break safety rules in order to meet their quotas. They felt they had to break these rules in order to make sure they would not lose their jobs, although after getting an injury their jobs would be gone anyway.
Many problems can be found with the injury reports within Amazon that go beyond sprains, strains, and stress injuries. When a gas leak spread throughout the Eastvale warehouse where Dixon used to work, the managers would not slow down; a few workers even got dizzy and vomited, but were told if they wanted to leave it would be considered personal time off. When a maintenance worker was crushed to death by a forklift at an Amazon warehouse in Indiana, Indiana’s state officials sided with Amazon over their own investigator. This was believed to be because they wanted to gain Amazon’s second headquarters.
If you feel you are unable to voice your concerns about your working conditions at Amazon, contact us for further assistance at: www.AmazonEmploymentLaw.com and/or CJR@AmazonEmploymentLaw.com. Our Amazon Employment Law Division can assist you in three ways:
(1) Do It Yourself: Knowledge & Forms;
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(3) Done For You: We meet with you and draft the documents for you. We may also, in some cases, offer to fully represent the client.