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Supply Chain News: Washington State Regulators Find Amazon Sets Unsafe Speed for Truck Loading



Will Actions Targeting Amazon eventually Impact use of Labor Standards in all DCs?

Nov. 21, 2023


SCDigest Editorial Staff

For years, Amazon has come under criticism for setting productivity standards at its fulfillment centers that are impossible to achieve or put FC workers at risk of injury.

In response, California and then New York passed legislation that required most distribution center to include adequate meal and restroom breaks in productivity standards, make the standards public, and other provisions to limit what Amazon and other distributors can do, including making it easier for workers to take legal action against the company operating the distribution center.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

In the three years since the facility opened, workers there filed more than 400 workers’ compensation claims for work-related musculoskeletal disorders, the department found, leaving Spokane with the highest injury rate of any Amazon facility in the state.

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Now, Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries has alleged that delivery drivers at a Seattle-area Amazon FC are required to load vans at a dangerously fast pace.

According to a report in the Seattle Times, at Amazon’s FC in Sumner, Washington drivers have to load their vans in a “manner and timeframe” that leads to a high or very high risk of lower back injury, the department claims in a citation issued in June that is just coming to light now.

The allegations are similar to charges levied against Amazon elsewhere in the state regarding workers inside fulfilment centers.

In some cases, the department found Amazon did not give employees enough time to rest or to use proper techniques to make the work safer.

“The department has accused Amazon of setting an unsafe pace of work and exposing workers to increased risk of injury from repetitive motions — such as lifting, bending and reaching — at least six times over the last two and a half years,” according to the Seattle Times.

In Sumner, the Washington Department citation also said that “the work pace also does not leave enough time for workers to use proper lifting form to make the work safer or take advantage of the help offered by Amazon associates to load the vans.”

It also stated that the fast pace makes it “impractical for workers to follow Amazon’s safety training, including safe lifting methods.”

Amazon disputes with the allegations in the citation and appeal, the company said.

The Times further reports that Amazon has been fighting similar citations in an appeal process for four citations regarding other FCs in the state.

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Amazon has appealed all four citations, arguing its employees work at a comfortable pace, the rate of injury at its FCs is improving, and that it has invested in new technology, equipment and work procedures to continue bringing injury rates down.

During the trial, Amazon said that the Department of Labor is measuring the injury risk incorrectly.

The Times further reports that in July, the state issued yet another citation against Amazon accusing it of failing to create a safe work environment. In this citation, the department accused Amazon of knowingly endangering workers at a Spokane-area fulfillment center.

In the three years since the facility opened, workers there filed more than 400 workers’ compensation claims for work-related musculoskeletal disorders, the department found, leaving Spokane with the highest injury rate of any Amazon facility in the state.

However, Amazon again disputes the charges at the Spokane FC.

“We look forward to a full and fair hearing on the citations we’ve already challenged because, the fact is, we’re making measurable progress,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

This is hardly Amazon battle on productivity and worker safety fronts.

For example, federal workplace safety regulators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Justice and a health and labor committee in the US Senate have all opened investigations into working conditions in Amazon’s logistics facilities.

While many of these actions are clearly or appear to be targeted at Amazon, the real question is how all this will play out regarding use of labor standards by other companies, a widespread practice.

Do you have any thoughts on this actions against Amzon's labor practices?
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