Leaked Amazon Pamphlet Highlights Numerous Safety Concerns
July 16, 2021
A leaked wellness pamphlet from Amazon is making waves after it referred to warehouse workers as “industrial athletes” and advised them to take part in the company’s “Working Well” program to prepare for walking up to 13 miles a day and lifting tens of thousands of pounds per shift. While the pamphlet is from 2020, it shows how Amazon has been making a concerted effort to portray itself as a “worker friendly” employer in light of numerous reports documenting the rampant injury rates that occur at its warehouses nationwide.
According to the Strategic Organizing Center, a consortium made up of some of the country’s leading labor unions, Amazon’s warehouse workers sustained severe injuries over 24,000 times in a one-year period (2020). In other words, injuries occurred at two-times the rate for Amazon workers than in any other warehouse. And yet, despite the wealth of data substantiating that Amazon’s warehouses are dangerous, the company has still not changed its fast-paced, pressure-filled environment. Instead, Amazon’s pamphlet advises employees on how they can “protect” themselves by taking steps like:
- Purchasing new shoes at the end of the day or once your feet have already swelled. This way, you can make sure that your new shoes allow plenty of room for your feet to swell during your shift
- Always carrying a bottle of water and try to drink an average of 2 liters. Even so, be sure to “monitor your urine color” for signs of dehydration
- Making sure you get plenty of sleep, since fatigue and drowsiness can be dangerous
- Eating a healthy and nutritious diet. Amazon’s warehouse workers burn about 400 calories/hour, so the company stresses the importance of fueling up before and after shifts
Altogether, Amazon’s pamphlet has six sections: nutrition, hydration, sleep, good footwear, ergonomic work behavior, and injury prevention specialists. While the company appears to want to portray itself as placing value on worker health and safety, there is plenty of data that shows how Amazon is failing to address the very same issues. After the pamphlet hit the news, Amazon reps were fast to call it a simple mistake and said the company had fixed the issue by removing it. However, some employees say the pamphlet was available to them as recently as May of this year.
To describe an Amazon warehouse as a “grueling” work environment might be an understatement. For example, the company claims that its gives workers bathroom breaks (as is required by law), yet there are multiple tales from current and former employees who say they had to relieve themselves in plastic bags or bottles because it was impossible to take a break. In one harrowing instance, a worker sustained a severe injury because of a malfunctioning conveyor belt. Even after it became apparent that the worker’s injuries were serious (herniated discs in his neck), the company expected him to continue working for the next few weeks. At the end, once a physician put the employee onto light duty, Amazon told him there was no longer work for him.
Instead of addressing the issue head on and taking concrete steps to reduce worker injury rates, Amazon’s response so far has been to release its “Mindful Practice Rooms”, which are also known as the “ZenBooths”. These booths are also part of Amazon’s “Working Well” program. Amazon boasts that workers who are stressed or in need of an escape can enter the small booths to take part in various mental health, mindfulness practices and other interactive activities. But the company is still failing to take any meaningful steps towards protecting workers from the known jobsite hazards that they face every day, such as:
- Conveyor belts. Body parts can catch in pinch points of by in-going nip points, which can lead to serious injuries like amputations
- Risk of being hit by falling materials, tools, or objects. Sometimes these incidents result in traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs
- Forklift accidents, which can be fatal
- Dock and dock plate accidents that result from unsecured or unmarked dock edges
- Transportation incidents that involve loading or unloading vehicles
- Improperly stored or unsecured materials
- Poor ergonomics. Workers who perform repetitive motions like twisting, bending, and reaching or those that lift items frequently are prone to sustaining musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. These injuries can cause long-term and in some cases, even permanent, disabilities
While Amazon says that its injury rate is only high because it is more stringent about tracking and reporting injuries than other companies are, workers say otherwise. Many say that the company fails to meet workers’ modified work requirements, and others say that the basic requirements themselves are impossible for workers to fulfill without increasing the risks of getting hurt. Injury tracking programs aside, one thing is clear: pressuring employees to keep up with rigorous quotas and pushing them to get their jobs done faster and faster leads to more, not less, injuries and fatalities – and Amazon workers and their loved ones are bearing the brunt of this tragic reality.
What to Do If You Are Injured at Work
If you are a warehouse worker who sustained an injury on the job, someone at our firm can help. An experienced attorney can help an injured employee file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides medical benefits and wage replacement. In some cases, the injured individual may want to consider filing a third party liability claim. An injured person can file a third party claim when a person or entity other than the employer is the one that bears the responsibility for the injury. Some examples of third party claims include a claim against a machine manufacturer, landlord, or property owner. If you would like to learn more about filing a workers’ compensation or third party liability claim for your workplace injury, contact a representative at our firm online now.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Have Been Representing Injured Victims in Philadelphia Since 1947
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