Three Amazon warehouses exposed workers to safety issues that put them at risk for “lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced today. Amazon faces a proposed penalty of $60,260—or roughly 0.000013 percent of its reported $469,822,000,000 2021 revenue.
Safety inspections at warehouses in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, New York found that workers were required to work long hours lifting heavy items, which predisposed them to developing musculoskeletal disorders.
“Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said in a 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.”
It seems unlikely that a roughly $60,000 fine will spur Amazon to rethink its operating procedures. The working conditions at the factories cited by OSHA are part of a larger pattern of Amazon ignoring worker safety.
Over the span of a month this summer, four Amazon workers died in separate incidents, some of which critics suspect were caused by excess heat. (As my colleague Emily Hofstaedter has reported, climate change has made heat a rising cause of on-the-job deaths, but OSHA has not updated its regulations accordingly.) Last month, after a worker died of a heart attack at a Colorado Springs warehouse, managers reportedly hid the body with cardboard bins while workers continued their shifts, unaware of the death.
Remarkably, Amazon faced no fines after six people died at one of its warehouses during a Category 3 hurricane, as we reported last year. One worker reportedly sent a text prior to his death that said, “Amazon won’t let us leave.”