Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images
Working in an Amazon warehouse can be absolute hell, where employees might skip bathroom breaks to make target goals or work punishingly long hours during the holidays. In the latest nightmare, two dozen employees at an Amazon fulfillment center in New Jersey had to be hospitalized on Wednesday after a punctured canister of bear repellent spewed into the warehouse.CNN reports that 54 employees at the Robbinsville Township warehouse experienced symptoms, including burning sensations in their eyes and throats, after the can was punctured by an automated machine. According to the Washington Post, about 80 had difficulty breathing—and at least one of the workers hospitalized was left in critical condition.
Rachael Lighty, a spokeswoman for Amazon, told the Washington Post that the punctured can sprayed “strong fumes in a contained area of the facility.” It’s still unclear exactly how the hell that happened, but Lighty said the company is investigating.“The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area have been relocated to a safe place and employees experiencing symptoms are being treated on-site,” Lighty said. “As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment. We appreciate the swift response of our local responders.”It’s just the latest incident in a long line of reports that make it seem like an Amazon warehouse might not be the safest place to work. In the last three years, ambulances were called to Amazon's UK warehouses at least 600 times, often to help employees who had trouble breathing and chest pain, according to a VICE investigation. In half of those cases, Amazon workers had to be taken to a hospital.Meanwhile, the company just announced it would open two new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and New York's Long Island City—even though the folks who actually live there aren't exactly psyched about Amazon coming to town. While some city officials are bending the knee to Amazon, the company’s pending arrival has raised fears among locals about accelerating gentrification, exacerbating infrastructure problems, and forcing small businesses to shutter.Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.Follow Arimeta Diop on Twitter.