Amazon workers injured at higher rates than rival companies

Warehouse workers are injured more often at Amazon than at rival companies, according to a new study.

In 2020, there were 5.9 serious injuries for every 100 Amazon warehouse workers, nearly 80% higher than the serious injury rate in non-Amazon warehouses, the Strategic Organizing Center wrote in a new report released Tuesday. The SOC said serious injuries included any injuries in which employees either miss work completely, known as “injuries with lost time,” or are assigned to light or limited duty.

The SOC, an association of unions including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union, analyzed recently published data that Amazon reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Agency on work-related injuries between 2017 and 2020.

Amazon’s 2020 injury rates were higher than Walmart, one of its closest retail competitors. According to the study, Amazon’s overall injury rate in 2020 was 6.5 cases per 100 workers. That’s more than double that of Walmart, which reported three cases per 100 employees in 2020.

Separately, the Washington Post published an analysis of OSHA data Tuesday that showed that Amazon’s major injury rate is nearly double that of non-Amazon warehouses.

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel told CNBC in a statement that the company had spent more than $ 1 billion in 2020 on initiatives such as WorkingWell, a program that aims to better educate employees about avoiding accidents at work and also provide advice on mental health and nutrition; as well as security measures against coronaviruses, such as The company also employs more than 6,200 people on its workplace health and safety team, Nantel said.

“Although every incident is one too many, we are continually learning and seeing improvements through ergonomics programs, guided exercises in employee workplaces, mechanical assistance equipment, workplace furnishings and design, and forklift telematics and guard rails – to name a few,” Nantel said in a statement .

Walmart officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Amazon recently took steps to improve its work safety programs as the company comes under increasing scrutiny from employees, advocacy groups and politicians about warehouse working conditions before and during the pandemic.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently admitted that the company “needs to do a better job for our employees” and promised to make Amazon the “best place to work in the world.” Last month, Amazon reiterated its goal of reducing work-related accidents by 50% by 2025. Amazon also plans to invest more than $ 300 million in security projects this year.

Amazon’s health and safety programs have focused in part on ergonomics, equipment improvements, and more recently, work-related injuries related to musculoskeletal disorders. According to Amazon, these types of injuries, typically sprains or strains from repetitive movements, decreased by 32% between 2019 and 2020. Serious musculoskeletal disorders that resulted in lost work were reduced by more than half, according to the company.

But Amazon employees, former OSHA officials and union officials told the Post that Amazon’s productivity rates were partly responsible for rising injury rates. The company requires warehouse workers to pick, pack and stow a certain number of items per hour.

Injury rates at Amazon warehouses were lower in 2020 compared to previous years, the SOC found. The decline was likely due to Amazon temporarily pausing performance tracking for part of last year to give workers more time to wash and sanitize their hands amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Much of the discussion about occupational safety at Amazon has centered on the employees of his sprawling warehouse operation. The SOC study also found that injury rates are higher in Amazon’s contract delivery network than in its fulfillment centers.

Amazon’s delivery service partners or DSPs are contracting companies that can usually be identified by Amazon-branded delivery vans and that are responsible for picking up parcels from Amazon delivery stations and dropping them off at your doorstep. Since they are not considered employees of Amazon, the company does not report any injury rates among drivers.

In 2019 and 2020, at least 129 DSPs filed injury records with OSHA, affecting more than 6,000 workers, according to the study. The SOC found that these DSPs reported injury rates of 14 and 13.3 per 100 workers, respectively. In addition, most of the injuries reported by DSPs in 2019 and 2020 were serious, causing staff to take time off to recover, the SOC said.

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