Amazon has become incredibly prolific as a source for all types of goods, content, and services. Although Amazon started as merely an online bookstore, it is now considered one of the Big Four of technology alongside Google, Apple, and Meta. Although obtaining this prevalence and success required the hard work of thousands of employees, it often comes at their expense due to dangerous workplace conditions that lead to warehouse accidents. And, Amazon is struggling with its handling of and response to repeated warehouse accidents.
Amazon Warehouse Accidents
All employees in the U.S. have the right to a reasonably safe workplace. No one should have to risk his or her life just to bring home a paycheck. Amazon is responsible for providing all workers, including its warehouse workers, with safe workplaces. This includes providing safety training and safety equipment and addressing all potential hazards in the workplace. Unfortunately, the company has proven to be neglectful time and time again when it comes to protecting its workers from accidents or injury.
In late December 2018, 54 Amazon warehouse employees in New Jersey were exposed to fumes when a robot punctured a can of bear repellant. Two dozen workers were rushed to the hospital, including one worker in critical condition. Workers experienced difficulty breathing and reported their throats and eyes burned from the fumes.
But if you think this was just a freak accident, you’d be wrong. Back in 2015, the same scenario played out in a Haslet, Texas warehouse when a robot ran over a can of bear repellant, causing it to release fumes. Sadly, Amazon warehouses have been home to several accidents resulting in serious injuries and even fatalities in recent years, so much so that The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has named Amazon to its annual “Dirty Dozen” list highlighting companies that put workers at risk because of unsafe labor practices.
More recently, an April 2022 report from Strategic Organizing Center highlighted that Amazon’s warehouse workers across the nation suffered more serious injuries at twice the rate of competitors in 2021. This means there were 6.8 serious injuries for every 100 Amazon warehouse workers – more than twice the rate of all other employers in the warehouse industry.
In 2021, Amazon reported approximately 38,300 total injuries at its U.S. facilities. That number increased roughly 20 percent from 27,100 injuries in 2020. The vast majority of these workplace injuries were categorized as serious or injuries that occurred where workers were hurt so badly that they were unable to perform light-duty tasks or were forced to miss work entirely. That same year, Amazon accounted for nearly half of all injuries in its industry, while accounting for up to a whopping third of all U.S. warehouse worker injuries.
Common Warehouse Accidents
No matter if an employee is working for Amazon or another warehouse facility, in general, warehouses are among the most dangerous places to work. While many best-in-class warehouse facilities have safeguards in place, they aren’t always foolproof. Not only that but not all warehouses measure up to the same standards, opening the door for workplace accidents and occupational injuries to occur regularly. Some of the most common causes of warehouse accidents include:
Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards
Warehouse environments can be particularly prone to slip, trip, and fall hazards. Stock items can be left in walkways, substances and products can be spilled, and at-height work areas all create the potential for an on-the-job injury to occur. Warehouses that lack clean conditions, guardrails, and/or warning signs often make workplace injuries more likely. In addition, long work hours and tired employees can increase the likelihood that workers will suffer an injury due to a slip, trip, or fall. The resulting injuries can range from minor bruises to life-threatening trauma.
Pallet Rack Collapses
Pallet rack collapses often happen when materials are not being stowed properly. These collapses are especially dangerous as they can occur from a mezzanine or higher level. This makes even the smallest, most innocuous item a projectile hazard if dropped from a certain height. Not only that, but larger items being stored on pallet racks can cause crush injuries to unsuspecting workers. To avoid these incidents, pallets should be stacked and wrapped with the largest items on the bottom. Pallets should also have adequate space between them to prevent potential collapse issues.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the forklift, its operator, and the workplace environment, all contribute to forklift crashes that can be fatal. Whether due to a new worker who may not be trained properly or an experienced operator having an off day, forklift crashes can be incredibly dangerous. While accidents can happen at any time, employers must take steps to implement proper training and other safety measures to ensure employees are better equipped to identify and help prevent potential forklift hazards before they happen.
Warehouse employees are used to working around large, heavy equipment and machinery. These machines can easily cause serious injury at any time, making it important to take a great deal of care around them. However, if management is complacent or careless when it comes to training and safety measures, a heavy machinery accident is more likely to happen.
As discussed above with regard to the numerous accounts of bear repellant being released in Amazon warehouses, these facilities often stock hazardous substances that can cause great damage if released. Products that contain certain hazardous chemicals could spill, as could cleaning products used by warehouse staff. Exposure to these toxic items can lead to lingering health problems and more flammable chemicals pose dangers for fires, explosions, and resulting burn injuries.
Amazon has a responsibility to protect its workers from injury. Unfortunately, despite the company being a major player among the world’s top businesses, Amazon has proven its warehouses to be incredibly dangerous workplace environments. If you or someone you know has been injured in a warehouse accident, your injuries may have left you unable to work. Contact the experienced Houston work injury lawyers at Dax F. Garza, P.C. today for a free consultation to see how we can help you pursue compensation.