occupational safety concerns ahead of amazon fulfillment center opening
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Occupational safety concerns ahead of Amazon Fulfillment Center opening

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The construction of the new million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment facility near the I-64 interchange in Fishersville is predicted to provide up to 500 new jobs to the residents of Augusta County. While the new facility will undoubtedly boost the local economy considerably, the harsh criticism Amazon has received with regards to the way it allegedly treats its workers, has not gone unnoticed. The global e-commerce giant has been called out by a number of sources for its mismanagement of its employees which includes the mismanagement of unpaid and paid leave days as well as unsafe working conditions.

An extremely high injury rate

A union-backed study recently found that U.S. Amazon warehouse employees are injured at a much higher frequency than individuals performing the very same tasks at other warehouses. In fact, the study indicates that Amazon employees suffered 5.9 serious injuries for every 100 workers. This is a whopping 80% higher than the industry average. It was apparently discovered that the company’s obsession with rendering a speedy service is to blame for the sky-high injury rate. Taking all of this into consideration it comes as no surprise that Amazon landed a spot on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of the most hazardous employees in the USA courtesy of the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). Jodi Kantor, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, echoed the same sentiments in an article she wrote entitled ‘Inside Amazon’s Worst Human Resources Problem’.

Is employee health of no importance?

During the course of 2021, Amazon publicly apologized for initially denying claims that its drivers had to urinate in bottles in an effort to speed up deliveries. Further allegations, which were also denied by the company, surfaced, pointed to warehouse employees being under so much pressure that they could not utilize the on-site bathrooms properly which, in turn, can result in pointed to warehouse employees being under so much pressure that they could not utilize the on-site bathrooms properly which, in turn, can result in severe health complications. Amazon was furthermore also accused of cutting corners as far as Covid19 health and safety protocol is concerned.  Apart from damaging their reputation as an employer, workplace injuries caused by such negligence can also result in lengthy (and costly) legal battles in some instances. According to the team at Johnson Garcia Law, a lawsuit is often the only way to fully recover the damages due to the affected party.

More frequent and severe injuries

Another study, this time by the Strategic Observation Center (SOC) performed an analysis of health and safety data as supplied to the National COSH from 2017 to 2020. It was found that, apart from being more prone to injury, Amazon warehouse employees are also seemingly suffering more severe injuries than their counterparts who are employed elsewhere. The average number of days a warehouse industry employee is absent following an occupational injury is 39 days, whereas injured Amazon employees are off work for an average of 46.3 days. With some employees walking a total of up to 13 miles a day while on the floor and others lifting in excess of 20,000 pounds during a single shift, it is not difficult to grasp why sprains, tears, lacerations, and strains are a very common occurrence on the warehouse floor.

Although the opening of a new Amazon fulfillment center in Augusta County can benefit the local community in many ways, concerns about employment treatment are warranted. Before applying for any job opening it is essential to do some research and know what red flags to look out for.

By Megan Hillard

News Desk

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