Amazon fined by US workplace safety regulator over alleged unsafe conditions as warehouse staff in Missouri file federal complaint
The regulator for safety in US workplaces has fined Amazon for subjecting staff at a New Jersey warehouse to unsafe conditions, in its latest such fine this year.
The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said staff at Amazon’s Logan Township, New Jersey warehouse were subjected to bodily stress causing muscular disorders and neck and back injuries.
It said Amazon had failed to ensure injured staff received adequate treatment and recommended a fine of $15,625 (£12,200), the maximum it is able to levy under US law.
The agency has fined Amazon about $150,000 so far this year for alleged unsafe conditions or for failing to record work-related injuries at its warehouses across the US.
Amazon has 15 days to either pay the fine or lodge an appeal with a review board.
The fines come as Amazon has registered a huge surge in profits at its retail business this year, which it said were in part due to having lowered its costs.
The company announced layoffs of thousands of workers earlier in the year.
Separately, workers in Missouri filed a federal complaint alleging that the company imposed unsafe conditions at a facility in St Peters, near St Louis.
The workers said at a press conference that they were made to fill quotas that forced them to rush to pack and carry containers, and that when they were injured their complaints were downplayed.
‘Stock price’ focus
“OSHA’s own prior citations show a pattern of safety violations throughout Amazon’s warehouse network, a pattern which is unfortunately reflected in our own experiences,” the workers said in the complaint.
“The company is more concerned with its stock price than worker safety,” said packer Jennifer Crane, according to local news media.
Amazon said in a statement that it takes workplace safety seriously and plans to appeal the OSHA citation.
It said its rate of worker injuries worldwide has declined significantly since 2019.
‘Clean, safe facility’
The firm said OSHA inspectors are welcome to visit the Missouri warehouse and would find a “clean, safe facility”.
The injury rate at the St Peters warehouse is below the industry average and has improved by more than 55 percent since 2019, it said.
“The vast majority of employees at this facility say in anonymous surveys that they feel safe at work and believe their managers are always looking for ways to enhance safety further,” Amazon stated.
Amazon’s safety record came under new scrutiny during the Covid-19 pandemic and inspired several unionisation votes, including one in New York City where workers voted to unionise.