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OSHA: Amazon warehouses expose workers to serious ergonomic hazards

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2023 | Workers' Compensation

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited three Amazon warehouses for failing to provide a safe workplace. One of them is in Waukegan.

The citations were specifically about ergonomic hazards, or those involving work processes. The agency says that the company’s work processes put workers at risk of musculoskeletal injury.

Are ergonomic hazards serious?

They can be. When work processes require people to lift heavy objects quickly, lift awkwardly, or perform repetitive motions, for example, workers can develop serious injuries such as musculoskeletal disorders.

“Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries,” said a Department of Labor spokesperson.

Indeed, a review of injury logs found that the workers are experiencing high rates of musculoskeletal disorders at the three warehouses.

For using work processes that put workers in danger in these three warehouses, OSHA proposed fining Amazon $60,269. Amazon has the right to contest the citations and fine.

In addition to the fine, OSHA has proposed that Amazon be required to hire a certified professional ergonomist to revise its lifting, pushing and pulling work processes. It could also have to implement whole-body screening tools to assess the work processes and how much they put workers at risk for musculoskeletal disorders.

Amazon has been criticized before for its safety practices

In 2021, nearly half of all warehouse injuries in the U.S. involved Amazon workers. Nearly half.

A coalition of labor unions released a report last year that analyzed OSHA’s 2021 injury data from Amazon. There were almost 40,000 injuries reported that year – 20% more than the previous year. And, 89% of those injuries were serious enough that the worker either missed work or was unable to perform their usual work functions.

The OSHA findings about these three warehouses could be just the tip of the iceberg. They were merely part of an ongoing mass investigation that was prompted by a referral from a U.S. Attorney in New York state.

Last year, a Washington State investigation found that Amazon was “knowingly putting workers at risk of injury.”

Interestingly, the injury rate is higher at Amazon facilities that are largely automated than at less automated sites. This may be because quotas for human workers jumped after the warehouses were automated. Workers were once required to scan about 100 items per hour. After automation, they were required to scan about 400 items per hour.

Repetitive stress and other strain injuries are covered by workers’ comp

Whether a workplace injury happens in a single accident or over time, it is likely covered by workers’ compensation in Illinois. That includes injuries that were originally non-work-related but which got worse due to your job duties. It also includes cumulative injuries, like repetitive stress injuries.

If you’re hurt at work, you should report your injury as soon as you reasonably can and file a workers’ comp claim. You do not have to show your employer was at fault.

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