The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has issued a subpoena against Amazon, alleging that the company violated safety laws and failed to keep workers safe at three warehouses. The regulator also proposed $60,269 in fines related to the violations — a drop in the ocean for a company that posted more than $127 billion in sales in the third quarter of 2022 alone, but a relatively hefty fine compared to many of the fines it faced from OSHA before.
According to a press release, the quote stems from inspections at three warehouses in Deltona, Florida, Waukegan, Illinois, and New Windsor, New York. OSHA says Amazon “exposed workers to ergonomically affected hazards” at the site, putting them “at high risk for lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal conditions.”
Doug Parker, deputy secretary of occupational safety and health, put some of the blame on Amazon’s pace for its warehouse workers. “Each of these inspections found work processes designed for speed, but not safety,” he said, noting that the system in the warehouses appeared to be focused on shipping packages rather than worker safety.
It’s a criticism that Amazon has faced for years, including from OSHA itself. Last year, advocacy group The Strategic Organizing Center released a report saying that Amazon workers account for a disproportionate percentage of all injuries in the U.S. warehouse industry. Outside the Warehouse, a 2019 report from Buzz feed and ProPublic accused the company of trading security for speed in its delivery network, and that point was reiterated by the SOC last year.
A statement from the action group Athena Coalition quotes Daniel Olayiwola, an Amazon warehouse worker in San Antonio, as saying, “OSHA’s findings mirror the experience of Amazon workers like me in warehouses across the country.” Olayiwola says workers “have been speaking out for years about the grueling work rate and exploitative policies that directly cause burnout, severe stress on our bodies, and unsafe situations.”
Amazon, for its part, disagrees with OSHA’s latest allegations. “We take the safety and health of our employees very seriously and strongly disagree with these allegations and intend to appeal,” said a statement from spokesperson Kelly Nantel. “We have fully cooperated and the government’s allegations do not reflect the reality of security at our sites.” Nantel also cites an improvement in the company’s injury rates between 2019 and 2021 (a claim similar to Amazon’s in response to its 2022 SOC report), saying, “We look forward to sharing more on our call about the numerous safety innovations, improvements and investments we are making to further reduce injuries.”
According to OSHA, Amazon received citations last year for 14 administration violations for “failing to record injuries and illnesses, misclassifying injuries and illnesses, failing to record injuries and illnesses within the required time, and failing to provide timely injury-related information.” and disease data to OSHA.” Those came with proposed fines of about $29,008 and were part of the same investigation as the citations announced Wednesday.
The regulator calling Amazon is rare but not unheard of. The company received a citation in 2015 for failing to properly record work-related injuries and illnesses, as well as a handful of covid-related citations in 2020.
OSHA says it is also conducting investigations at three other Amazon warehouses in Aurora, Colorado, Nampa, Idaho, and Castleton, New York, after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York directed it to do so last summer.