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Report: Amazon downplaying rising warehouse worker injury rate

| Oct 6, 2020 | Workers' Compensation |

It’s not hard to spot an Amazon delivery van or truck as you drive around Lawnside and surrounding communities. The dark blue vehicles emblazoned with the company’s trademark smile scurry endlessly around our town, Camden County and the rest of New Jersey and the U.S.

Because in-person shopping and traffic have both dropped during the pandemic, Amazon has been one of the few companies to actually get bigger and more prosperous during this challenging time. Not everything is rosy for Amazon warehouse workers, however.

Rising workplace injuries?

According to a recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting, workplace injuries among the company’s 250,000 warehouse workers continue to increase, despite Amazon’s claim that it has made enormous investments in safety improvements. The Center says the company “has deceived the public on rising injury rates among its warehouse workers.”

The Center’s investigators examined internal safety reports and weekly injury data from Amazon’s 150 fulfillment centers, finding that the company’s injury rates have risen each year since 2016.

A rebuttal

In a statement, Amazon said it “strongly refutes the claims” that was deceptive about workplace injuries. However, the company did not refute the claim that its on-the-job injury rates have steadily risen.

Amazon also said it is focused “on inventing programs that create a safer work environment.”

A look at the injury numbers

The Center for Investigative Reporting said that last year, Amazon recorded 14,000 serious injuries at its fulfillment centers – a figure that results in a rate of 7.7 serious injuries per 100 workers. The Center said that injury rate is “nearly double the most recent industry standard.”

In addition, the company might also be underreporting warehouse employee injuries. A doctor who inspected Amazon warehouses (there are three within an hour’s drive of Lawnside) for OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) said some Amazon workers were discouraged from reporting on-the-job injuries and getting outside medical attention.

Automation not helping?

The Center also said internal reports also show that contrary to Amazon’s expectations, injury rates at heavily automated facilities are higher – not lower – than injury rates elsewhere. Workers at those automated facilities were expected to pick up and scan about 400 items per hour – about four times the rate of 100 per hour at other Amazon facilities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, injury rates are also higher during the holiday shopping season and the annual Prime Day discount event. The highest injury spike was around Prime Day, typically held in July, but because of the pandemic, moved to October this year.

It should be noted that it doesn’t matter on which day of the year a workplace injury happens. Most employees injured on the job in the state will be eligible for New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits.

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