Skip to main content

Amazon Fined $60,000 for OSHA Warehouse Safety Violations

Despite Amazon claiming workplace safety is its top priority, with $300 million going to safety projects in 2021, the e-commerce giant continues to run afoul of federal safety watchdogs.

The U.S. Department of Labor‘s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Amazon for failing to keep workers safe. It issued hazard alert letters after inspections at three warehouse facilities—in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, N.Y.—after finding workers exposed to ergonomic hazards.

“Workers face immense pressure to meet the pace of work and production quotas at the risk of sustaining musculoskeletal injuries, which are often acute,” the letter issued to the Deltona warehouse stated. “Evidence that injuries may not have been reported, because Amazon’s on-site first-aid clinic is not staffed appropriately, which our investigation has revealed would otherwise be an important mechanism by which Amazon gathers injuries to report.”

A secondary hazard alert letter issued to the Deltona warehouse cited high heat exposure levels, which could lead to serious heat-related illnesses like heat stroke.

Specifically, OSHA cited Amazon for violating the general clause in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to provide safe workplaces. The agency also cited the company for putting workers at the Florida facility at risk of being struck by dangerous hazards. Similar investigations at three Amazon locations in Aurora, Colo.; Nampa, Idaho; and Castleton, N.Y. are ongoing.

Related Stories

“Employees are experiencing and have experienced struck-by injuries to various body parts of the body related to the loss of control of packages, during the manual handling of objects weighing greater than 50 [pounds],” a hazard alert letter issued to the Waukegan facility said. It cited 24 injuries, ranging from bruises and fractures to lacerations and smashings, from 2022 through 2018. This was just a sampling of injuries sustained.

The department’s actions follow referrals from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which led the agency to open inspections at Amazon warehouses in Deltona, Waukegan, and New Windsor on July 18, 2022, and in Aurora, Nampa and Castleton on Aug. 1, 2022.

“Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health, said. “While Amazon has developed impressive systems to make sure its customers’ orders are shipped efficiently and quickly, the company has failed to show the same level of commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of its workers.”

OSHA investigators found Amazon warehouse workers at high risk for lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders related to the high frequency with which workers are required to lift packages and other items; the heavy weight of the items; awkward postures, such as twisting, bending and long reaches while lifting; and long hours required to complete assigned tasks. OSHA also reviewed on-site injury logs required by OSHA and discovered that Amazon warehouse workers experienced high rates of musculoskeletal problems.

Amazon faces a total of $60,269 in proposed penalties for these violations.

“Our hope is that the findings of our investigations inspire Amazon and other warehouses to make the safety and health of their workers a core value,” Parker added.

In December, OSHA cited Amazon for 14 recordkeeping violations as part of the same investigation.

Amazon has 15 business days from receipt of the current citations—marked Jan. 17—and proposed penalty to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

This is far from Amazon’s only violation. The company produced a misleading workplace safety report that labor organizations called “self-serving” in an attempt to flip the narrative that Amazon isn’t a safe place to work, despite mounting evidence—and safety violation fines—that suggests otherwise. From inadequate lunch breaks to water bottle bathroom “breaks,” the Everything Store is routinely accused of failing its employees.  

In December, an Amazon employee died at a Colorado fulfillment center, marking the fourth death at an Amazon warehouse in 2022. The Colorado Springs Police Department confirmed that his death was not work-related; an Amazon spokesperson told local TV news affiliate KKTV 11 that the man, Rick Jacobs, suffered a heart attack a few minutes before his shift ended. The news outlet said Amazon denied several claims that boxes were used to hide Jacobs’ body from other workers. In July 2022, an employee died at a New Jersey fulfillment center during Prime Day, prompting an OSHA investigation. The cause of death was not revealed.

Earlier this month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, which aims to guard warehouse employees against unreasonable or overly demanding performance quotas. The law will require distribution centers to disclose historical productivity data to current and former staff to inform them about their performance and rights in the workplace.

“By bringing the Warehouse Worker Protection Act across the finish line, we have made sure that corporations like Amazon and UPS can’t wring all the profits they can out of their employees, leaving the workers to deal with their injuries,” State Sen. Jessica Ramos said. “Every warehouse worker has a community relying on them, relying on their ability to come home from work whole.”

Amazon did not immediately reply to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.