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Lawmakers ask OSHA to inspect Amazon warehouses

Overview of the Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore in April 2019

Several federal legislators have asked the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate working conditions at Inc. warehouses.

Amazon workers in Minnesota organized a work stoppage this week — during the week in which Amazon conducted its 48-hour Prime Day product sale for Prime members — to protest unfair and unsafe work practices, including walking more than 10 miles in a single shift, repeatedly lifting heavy objects and being allowed only minimal rest breaks, noted the letter sent Tuesday to OSHA from 13 legislators.

“This work environment creates a high risk of physical injuries, a risk increased by Amazon’s intentional disregard for the health and safety of its employees,” the letter stated.

Amazon was included on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s 2019 “dirty dozen” list of companies that the organization said failed to protect workers from preventable illness, injury and death due to 13 employee deaths since 2013.

“When workplace injuries occur, Amazon has repeatedly ignored their severity,” the letter stated.

Amazon has spent more than $55 million on safety improvement projects in the past year, the company said in a blog post Tuesday.

“The allegations outlined in this letter are not an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings,” the company said.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was one of the signatories to the letter, and Amazon said it has given him an open invitation to visit a facility of his choosing, according to the blog post. In addition, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a co-signer of the letter, did not raise concerns in the months following her tour of Amazon’s Minnesota facility, the company said.

“If Rep. Omar and Sen. Sanders really want to help the American worker, they should focus on passing legislation that raises the federal minimum wage — $7.25 is too low,” the company stated in its post.

Amazon operates more than 100 warehouses in the United States, but OSHA has only conducted 150 inspections and issued 41 violations, according to OSHA inspection reports cited in the letter.

“OSHA has previously found that Amazon fails to report workers injuries and when OSHA does investigate, your agency has found instances of egregious injuries, including fractures and amputations,” the letter stated.

An OSHA spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.


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