Over the past few years, the work conditions and practices inside Amazon's warehouses and distribution centers have come under national scrutiny. Several workers have reportedly been injured or died on the job — earning the online commerce giant a spot on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health's 2019 Dirty Dozen list of most dangerous employers in the United States.
Only a couple of months ago, an Amazon employee who worked at a warehouse in Etna, Ohio, died after going into cardiac arrest on the job, according to the Guardian. What's worse, the man was reportedly laying on the ground, unresponsive, for 20 minutes before another employee finally found him and sought help.
While officials from Amazon claimed to have responded to the incident "within minutes," another employee (who requested to remain anonymous) told the Guardian a different story:
“Bill was on the floor for quite some time and nobody knew that time until cameras were reviewed, but in 20 minutes a worker in a nearby department saw him lying on the floor and then began radio callouts for 911. It really is unbelievable how Bill was laying there for 20 minutes and nobody nearby saw until an Amnesty worker with a radio came by."
Amnesty workers are Amazon floor monitors who ensure the warehouse floors are clear and reset robot units when necessary.
New York worker advocates delve deeper into Amazon's workplace conditions and warehouse practices
The stream of serious injuries and deaths among Amazon warehouse employees has prompted The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) to investigate.
NYCOSH is a worker advocacy group that focuses on improving health and safety conditions in the workplace. The organization is comprised of New York workers, unions, community-based organizations, and workers' rights activists.
In a report released in October, NYCOSH scrutinized the conditions and workplace practices of Amazon by surveying 142 of the 2,500 employees at the Staten Island facility — some of whom work up to 12 hours per shift.
The survey, which was conducted between January 3 - May 7, focused on four key areas: psychological stress, economic stress, occupational pain, and occupational injuries. After surveying the 142 workers, NYCOSH interviewed an additional three workers at the facility to gain deeper insight into the work conditions and practices.
Report highlights intense work pace
The report, entitled Time Off Task: Pressure, Pain, and Productivity at Amazon, comes on the heels of the anniversary of Amazon's Staten Island facility opening. The findings include:
- 80% of employees were pushed to work harder and faster
- 49% of employees have experienced psychological stress
- 63% of employees have experienced difficulties with sleep
- 66% of employees have experienced physical pain while performing work duties
- For 42% of employees, the pain they sustained at work persisted when they were off the clock
- 18% of employees have sustained an injury on the job, and 10% sustained an injury more than once
The physical and psychological strain experienced by workers is likely due to Amazon's speed-based evaluation practices. Any time away from productivity is considered a "time off task," including stepping away to use the restroom, drink water, or take a brief break from strenuous physical labor. Anything that deviates from the fast-paced work environment can hurt an employee's performance evaluation.
A body map provided by NYCOSH showed the percentage of survey respondents who experienced work-related musculoskeletal pain in the following areas:
- Foot and heel pain — left foot (29%), right foot (28%), right heel (23%), left heel (22%)
- Ankle pain — right ankle (17%), left ankle (16%)
- Knee pain — left knee (22%), right knee (20%)
- Low back pain — low back, right side (21%), low back, left side (20%), low back, center/tail bone (18%)
- Upper back, chest, and shoulder pain — upper back, right shoulder (17%), upper back, left shoulder (16%), pectoral, right shoulder (15%)
- Hand pain — left hand, palm (15%)
What are my options if I'm injured on the job?
Whether you have developed persistent musculoskeletal pain or sustained an injury while working in one of Amazon's facilities, it's important that you take this matter seriously from the start.
Injuries sustained in warehouses and distribution centers often include:
- Bone fractures
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Musculoskeletal disorders
Recovering from any work-related condition will require time away from work and medical care including:
- X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans
- Medication for pain and inflammation
- Physical therapy
- In severe cases, surgery
Get an experienced New York workers' compensation attorney on your side
Taking time off from work to recover from an injury may seem like a financial burden. Luckily, if you're injury or condition was sustained within the scope of your employment, you may be eligible to collect workers' compensation benefits. Proving that your injury was the result of your employer's workplace conditions and practices, however, can be challenging. That's why you need an experienced New York workers' compensation attorney on your side.
The legal team at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP Attorneys At Law is dedicated to helping injured workers in the five boroughs of New York City and across the state. Contact us online today to get started.