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Gruesome Deaths Land Amazon Top Spot on “Dirty Dozen” List of Dangerous Workplaces

Though Amazon’s stellar quarterly earnings garnered positive headlines this week, the retail giant is now attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.

The Seattle-based company drew ire from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) for operating an unsafe work environment, landing the No. 1 spot among 12 companies under fire for racking up “preventable” workplace deaths and injuries.

According to COSH’s Dirty Dozen 2018 report, seven Amazon warehouse workers have been killed on the job since 2013, including a particularly deadly five-week span in 2017 in which three employees died.

On Sept. 19, 2017, a truck ran over 28-year-old Devan Michael Shoemaker, 28, at Amazon’s warehouse in Carlisle, Pa. Then on Sept. 23, 59-year-old Phillip Terry was killed when a forklift crushed his head at an Amazon warehouse in Plainfield, Ind. On Oct. 23, 50-year-old Kayla Kay Arnold died from multiple injuries after she was struck by an SUV in the parking lot of Monee, Ill., Amazon warehouse where she worked.

That spate of fatalities began as the hectic holiday shipping season got underway.

Previous casualties at Amazon facilities include a worker who was dragged to death by a conveyor belt, an employee crushed by a pallet loader—at the same building where Shoemaker was killed—and yet another staffer fatally crushed by a forklift.

COSH paints these gruesome workplace deaths against the background of Amazon’s closely watched hunt for its second North American headquarters—and demand for tax breaks and other incentives. Though 20 cities on the short list for HQ2 want to bring Amazon’s stated 50,000 jobs to their areas, the COSH report states that Amazon’s rise has contributed to the net loss of 149,000 jobs due to small business shutting down, according to data from the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

One of Amazon’s latest patents raises questions over the “Big Brother” nature of the company’s warehouse environments. In January, the retailer landed a patent for wristbands, which aren’t operational yet, that track a worker’s movements and buzz when the wearer moves in the wrong direction. While the goal might be to improve productivity and streamline operations, tracking hourly employees so closely could fracture what seems to be an already stressful work environment.

According to COSH, worker advocacy efforts in Chicago and in California has yielded stronger protections for temporary workers, who often supply labor during busy shipping periods.

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