The U.S. Department of Labor issued a second set of citations against Amazon for violating federal labor law and plans to fine the company over $46,000 for again “failing to keep workers safe,” it announced on Wednesday. The citations come two weeks after the Department first issued citations and a $60,269 against the company for violating federal labor law and exposing workers to ergonomic hazards.
This means the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) has cited six Amazon warehouses in five states within the last several months.In the latest round of violations, OSHA inspected three additional warehouse facilities in Colorado, Idaho, and New York. Leaders in the labor movement against Amazon called the scope of OSHA’s investigation “unprecedented.” “These OSHA citations are incredibly significant, unprecedented, and historic,” said Debbie Berkowitz, a former chief of staff at OSHA and a current fellow at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, in a press conference on Tuesday. “It’s a small agency. The amount of research and expertise that OSHA devoted—it’s very rare for them to do that. They really grounded their investigation using documents, ergonomic experts, all the tools we have as safety professionals. These are incredibly grounded and significant citations because OSHA knows that Amazon is going to appeal this.” The proposed penalty for the second set of citations is $46,875. This, combined with the first fine, means the Department of Labor intends to fine Amazon $107,144. Amazon has 15 business days to either pay the fine or contest the investigation. "Amazon's operating methods are creating hazardous work conditions and processes, leading to serious worker injuries," said Doug Parker, the assistant secretary for OSHA.. "They need to take these injuries seriously and implement a company-wide strategy to protect their employees from these well-known and preventable hazards."
“At all six locations, OSHA investigators found Amazon exposed warehouse workers to a high risk of low back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders,” the Department of Labor press release states. “OSHA reviewed on-site injury logs required by federal law and discovered that, in fact, Amazon warehouse workers experienced high rates of musculoskeletal disorders.” Amazon facilities are known for their high injury rates—one study in 2022 found that Amazon warehouse workers suffer injuries at twice the rate of other workers in the warehousing industry. “We get two 30-minute breaks out of a 10-hour day,” said Jennifer Crane, an Amazon worker in Missouri who injured a ligament in her wrist in October, said in the press conference on Tuesday hosted by the Athena Coalition. “That’s it. Otherwise, we’re expected to stand there and twist and turn. I wish they had more breaks. Our bodies need more breaks. If you sit down, you get in trouble.” “OSHA found that Amazon’s high injury rate was caused by repetitive stressful movements that workers have to make every day,” Berkowitz said, adding that multiple recent studies had shown there were better ways to design warehouses for workers to not be injured so often. “It’s mind-boggling to think that Amazon built a lot of these warehouses recently…and that they would design these warehouses and forget to take into account that there are workers there.” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told Motherboard in a statement that it has reduced injury rates in recent years: “We take the safety and health of our employees very seriously, and we don’t believe the government’s allegations reflect the reality of safety at our sites. We’ve cooperated with the government through its investigation and have demonstrated how we work to mitigate risks and keep our people safe, and our publicly available data show we reduced injury rates in the U.S. nearly 15% between 2019 and 2021. We also know there will always be more to do, and we’ll continue working to get better every day.”