Workplace Injuries in Amazon's Empire
Over the past two decades, Amazon has built a massive eCommerce empire that has transformed the way that many products get from factories to our living rooms. The company has established a massive logistics network that is capable of getting products from our computer screens to our front doors in two days, one day or even an afternoon, setting a new standard for the eCommerce industry.
But as Amazon sets the standard for delivery and fulfillment in the eCommerce industry, it also undeniably sets the standards for employment practices and working conditions in the industry. That is alarming news for the millions of workers in the warehouse and logistics industry. Inside Amazon’s fulfillment centers, delivery stations and other warehousing operations, tens of thousands of workers are paying for the cost of free two-day shipping with their bodies.
While journalistic reports of unsafe working conditions at Amazon’s warehouses have been widely published in recent years, some of the most troubling accounts of Amazon’s health and safety practices don’t come from whistleblowers or workers; these troubling accounts can be found in the company’s own internal documents.
This report relies on data from OSHA 300 and 300A logs collected from Amazon warehouses around the country to develop a systematic understanding of health and safety performance at the company’s facilities and identify solutions for making these workplaces safer for workers.
Amazon’s own internal data paints a very troubling picture about what is happening inside the company’s fulfillment centers:
In 2018, the Total Recordable Injury Rate (TRIR) at Amazon facilities in the sample was 10.76 per 100 workers. This is three times as high as the injury rate across all private employers (2.8 recordable injuries per 100 workers) and more than twice as high as the injury rate in the notoriously hazardous general warehousing industry (5.2 recordable injuries per 100 workers).
Workers at Amazon suffered the most serious injuries at rates five times the national average for all private industries. The injuries suffered by workers at Amazon are so serious that workers had to be removed from their job at Amazon--88.9 percent of workers who were injured had to miss work or be placed on restricted duty.
These injuries are severe. Workers injured at Amazon were forced to miss an average of five-and-a-half weeks of work to recover from their workplace injuries.
Weekly injury rates (the number of injuries per week) spike during the peak holiday shopping season between Black Friday and Christmas. Injury rates begin to climb dramatically throughout the peak shopping season before spiking at two-and-a-half times the company’s weekly average in the 50th week of the year—approximately two weeks before Christmas.
The overwhelming majority of injuries recorded in Amazon’s OSHA 300 Logs include musculoskeletal injuries, such as sprains, strains and tears. These injuries accounted for almost 75 percent of the injuries recorded in the logs. The body parts most commonly injured are workers’ backs, shoulders, knees, wrists, ankles and elbows. These types of injuries are often caused by workers assigned tasks involving ergonomic hazards including forceful exertions, repetitive motions, twisting, bending, and awkward postures.
Over the past five years, federal inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have issued 67 citations at Amazon’s facilities, levying fines totaling $262,132. This enforcement activity, however, likely only scratches the surface of safety violations at Amazon facilities. Over the past half-decade, 78 percent of Amazon’s facilities have not received a single visit from OSHA inspectors.
Federal law requires that, “each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Amazon’s own data clearly shows that the company is breaking the law and as a result, workers are being injured in fulfillment centers around the country at shockingly high rates. These injuries are forcing workers to miss weeks of work while they recover and, in too many cases, experience pain for the rest of their lives. And the vast majority of these injuries are preventable.
Amazon must take immediate action to eliminate hazards in its warehouses and other facilities and make its workplaces safe for workers. The company must,
Identify and address ergonomic hazards in fulfillment centers and other facilities and implement safer workstation designs and practices to reduce the risk of injury to workers;
Reduce the speed of work and increase break times to address the hazards of fast-paced, stressful, repetitive work in its workplaces;
Provide adequate medical care for employees who are injured on the job.
Share readily available information on injuries and illnesses with workers to allow them to better understand the risks to which they are being exposed;
Ensure that senior management, the Board of Directors and shareholders all take responsibility for creating safe workplaces; and
Engage with worker-led health and safety committees to identify and eliminate hazards in its facilities.
Each of these solutions could dramatically improve health and safety outcomes for the hundreds of thousands of workers in Amazon’s fulfillment centers and warehouse facilities. If done well, many of these changes would cost very little in comparison to the company’s annual revenues and could actually improve the efficiency and reliability of the company’s fulfillment networks. Workers are being hurt at an alarming rate and there is no good reason for Amazon to further delay taking meaningful action to fix these hazards and make work safer.
 “OSH Act of 1970 | Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/oshact/section5-duties.
Injury Rates at Your Workplace
How do the injury rates at your warehouse compare to other Amazon facilities? Find your workplace or the Amazon facility in your community on this interactive map. Don't see your facility on the list? Click here for information on how workers and former workers can request data on health and safety performance at their workplaces.
Total Recordable Incident Rates at Amazon Facilities