Amazon on Trial: Key Documents and Media Coverage

Click this link to watch the trial itself.

The trial runs every day Aug. 7 – Aug. 10, starting at 9am PT, 12pm ET, and may run until 5pm every day.

Aug. 7 will include Amazon workers and lower level Amazon Managers

Aug. 8-9 will include the testimony of the front-line WISHA inspectors who led the inspections at the two huge warehouses which are the subject of the Violations and trial.

Aug. 10 will include testimony by the General Managers of the two warehouses.

Materials from trial before the WA Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA) in Amazon’s appeal of Citations for violations at Dupont, Sumner and Kent WA warehouses, issued by WA State OSHA (“WISHA”), Department of Labor and Industries (LNI)

WISHA Citation Amazon Dupont WA May 4 2021

WISHA Citation at Sumner, WA Dec 1 2021

WISHA Citation at Dupont, WA, Jan. 19, 2022

WISHA Citation at Kent, WA, March 9, 2022

LNI press release, March 21, 2022, announcing Kent Citation

Motion by Department of Labor and Industries, May 16, 2022, opposing Amazon’s request to the BIIA for a “Stay of Abatement”. This Motion includes statements from WISHA internal ergonomics expert Rick Goggins, and external experts Carisa Harris Adamson PhD, Dr. David Rempel and Dr. Robert Harrison, all affiliated with the University of California/San Francisco.

LNI List of Witnesses planned for the trial

Amazon list of witnesses planned for the trial.

Report of WISHA external experts on hazards in Dupont and Kent warehouses, June 12, 2023


Media Coverage

Amazon’s Injury-Plagued Warehouse Operation Goes on Trial

In December 2021 a doctor and an occupational health expert entered Inc.’s mammoth BF14 fulfillment center in Kent, Washington, about 20 miles south of the company’s Seattle headquarters. They were there at the behest of state regulators to investigate why workers at the world’s largest online retailer are injured more often than their counterparts in warehouses that other companies run.

Echoing Amazon’s penchant for tracking employees’ every move, the investigators used electronic monitors and video cameras to measure the stooping, lifting, reaching and twisting required to pick, pack and ship products to customers across the US. Over three days they observed more than 50 employees performing 12 tasks, including unloading trucks stacked floor-to-ceiling with boxes weighing as much as 50 pounds, packing customer items in envelopes and moving around pallets of products on rolling jacks.

The inspection—done with a court order because Amazon initially refused the use of electronic monitors—found hazards in almost every task reviewed. Ten-hour shifts with mandatory overtime and a rapid work pace put workers at risk of hurting their backs, shoulders, wrists and knees, the investigators determined. Employees surveyed by the inspectors said pushing through pain was the norm, with some 40% saying they’d experienced it in the previous seven days. Of those, two-thirds said they took medication to ease symptoms.

These findings will be front and center starting in late July as Washington’s Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals begins considering citations the state issued against Amazon, which the company is contesting. The state Department of Labor and Industry says Amazon pushes workers too hard by setting onerous performance targets that inevitably get people hurt. Last year, on average, 100 Amazon warehouse workers were injured each day in the US—out of a workforce of about 750,000—and required about two months to recover, according to a Bloomberg analysis of federal injury data.

The Washington hearings are just the beginning of a widening government crackdown on Amazon’s safety record that’s arguably the most intrusive scrutiny in the company’s history. After inspecting six warehouses in five states, federal regulators earlier this year cited Amazon for exposing workers to a range of musculoskeletal maladies and for failing to provide adequate medical treatment. Amazon is appealing the citations even as the government conducts further investigations. California, New York, Minnesota and several other states have passed or are considering new laws crafted to help prevent industry productivity quotas from interfering with legally required meal and rest breaks.

It’s not an exaggeration to say Amazon’s business model is on trial. For years the company has managed to stay one step ahead of rivals with its one- or two-day delivery guarantee. If regulators have their way, Amazon could be forced to hire more workers and make its operations more ergonomically sound—remedies that would raise costs at a time when online sales growth has slowed and the company is focused on boosting profits. The retail giant says its safety record is improving and has pledged to continue working on it, but Amazon still exceeded warehouse industry injury rates from 2018 to 2021, federal data and company records reveal.

Amazon Appealing ‘Willful’ Safety Violations in Washington Warehouses

Amazon will address its often-criticized workplace safety in Washington State next week in hearings that could set a tone for how both state and federal officials approach worker injuries at the company’s U.S. warehouses.

On Monday, the e-commerce giant will appeal several citations issued by Washington State OSHA (WISHA), which has flagged three Amazon warehouses in Dupont, Sumner and Kent since 2021 for violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct).

Amazon is set to address the state’s Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA), which holds hearings on disputes involving OSHA violations. Hearings are expected to last six weeks.

WISHA cited the Dupont warehouse twice in May 2021 and January 2022, and flagged the Sumner facility in December 2021. In all three warehouse inspections, WISHA found that Amazon required employees to perform manual material handling tasks without the assistance of appropriate equipment.

Jobs at these warehouses involved repetitive motions like lifting, carrying, twisting and other physical work that increased the risk of employees ending up with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other injuries.

Amazon was slapped with a $7,000 fine for each citation, with the state agency specifically ordering the tech titan to reduce its pace of work and eliminate ergonomic hazards to improve worker safety.

The fourth and final citation at the Kent warehouse is where the situation escalates. While the facility was cited for largely the same criticisms as the previous two warehouses, WISHA said Amazon intentionally failed to fix the hazards, noting that the company “is demonstrating plain indifference in that they have been made aware of the hazards and increased injury rates yet are making no effort to take corrective action.”

Only 0.4 percent of citations in OSHA’s 50-year history have been categorized as “willful.” It is the most serious safety violation designation that OSHA can issue. It applies when companies are found to have either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.

Amazon has since appealed all the citations, including the last one, which included a fine of $60,000.

“We look forward to showing that The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I’s) allegations are inaccurate and don’t reflect the reality of safety at Amazon,” said Amazon spokesperson Maureen Lynch Vogel. “The truth is that we’re always investing in safety and our efforts are working, with recordable injury rates at our sites in Kent and Dupont improving by 16 percent and 40 percent since 2018. We’re proud of our progress and we’ll continue working to get better every day.”

According to data reported to OSHA highlighted by SOC in an April report. the serious injury rate at Amazon warehouses was 6.6 per 100 workers—more than double the rate at non-Amazon warehouses (3.2 per 100). But the tech titan argues that SOC reports the stats without proper context, further noting that there is no official “serious injury” metric OSHA measures.

Amazon also contends that its warehouse-related injury totals appear outsized compared to brick-and-mortar mass merchants because OSHA’s reporting requirements don’t mandate that retailers categorize where injuries take place.

“There will always be ways for our critics to splice data to suit their narrative, but the fact is, we’ve made progress and our numbers clearly show it,” Vogel told Sourcing Journal. “Since 2019, we’ve reduced our rate of recordable injuries across the U.S. by more than 23 percent, and we’ve reduced our Lost Time Incident Rate by 69 percent. This is easily verifiable by examining the data we report to OSHA.”

Nevertheless, “the risk factors in these jobs are preventable,” said Laura Punnett, an ergonomist and epidemiologist and chair of biomedical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell during a briefing by The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC).

“The frequency of repeating hazardous motions and the lack of recovery time have been cited for decades as important causes of MSDs,” Punnett said. “A reasonable work pace and adequate breaks during the shift are essential. And unfortunately, we can compare this to Amazon’s actual production rate system with daily target goals set for the employees.”

Eric Frumin, health and safety director of SOC, a labor group that has been critical of Amazon’s injury rates, said that while a monetary fine is a mere drop in the bucket for the company, the end goal is about enforcing remedies for workers.

“It’s not about cash, it’s not about money,” Frumin said. “It’s about forcing the company to change the way their jobs are organized, change the equipment that workers use so that they face a much lower risk of the kinds of injuries that they are already suffering. That will make a huge difference for many workers for their ability to keep working there.”

For example, Frumin suggested Amazon would likely have to use pallets to move large quantities of boxes, instead of having people move boxes off of conveyors by hand if WISHA’s citations were upheld.

“Why Amazon makes workers reach to the bottom of a bin to pick up a package and put it on a conveyor rather than a bin with a floating bottom in 2023 is beyond me,” said Frumin. “It is just one of the worst forms of disregard and disrespect that they have for their employees.”

During the briefing, Punnett called Amazon out for funding a research-heavy $12 million MSD prevention initiative with the National Safety Council, instead of actively trying to stop the problem by implementing more material handling technology.

“I would love to hear reporters ask them why they didn’t use the same $12 million on fixes within their own workplaces,” said Punnett. “That would have gone a long way toward reducing the kinds of hazards that we’ve been talking about today.”

The trial will start just a week after OSHA said it is expanding requirements for employers to disclose workplace injuries, and 11 days after the agency launched a national emphasis program to prevent workplace hazards in warehouses, processing facilities distribution centers, and high-risk retail establishments.


Click here to read the full article from Sourcing Journal.


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