Amazon faces new round of penalties for worker safety violations

Signage is seen at an Amazon facility in Bethpage on Long Island in New York
Signage is seen at an Amazon facility in Bethpage on Long Island in New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Quotas put warehouse workers at risk of injury, agency says
  • Amazon already cited for similar issues at other warehouses
  • Safety is key factor in Amazon union campaigns

(Reuters) - The U.S. workplace safety regulator has again cited Inc for placing warehouse workers at risk of serious injuries by imposing onerous production quotas.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said inspections at Amazon warehouses in New York, Colorado and Idaho found that workers faced a higher risk of lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders.

OSHA said the risk to workers resulted from frequently lifting heavy packages and working long hours to fulfill quotas.

The announcement came two weeks after OSHA said it had fined Amazon about $60,000 over identical issues at three other U.S. warehouses. The citations announced on Wednesday include about $47,000 in penalties.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel in a statement said OSHA's claims do not "reflect the reality of safety at our sites."

"We’ve cooperated with the government through its investigation and have demonstrated how we work to mitigate risks and keep our people safe," Nantel said.

But the OSHA citations make clear that Amazon's business model prioritizes speed and profit over worker safety, said Eric Frumin, the health and safety director at the Strategic Organizing Center, a union-backed group that supports efforts to unionize Amazon warehouses.

"Amazon’s illegal production system and workloads are a daily threat to the safety of its nearly 400,000 warehouse workers," Frumin said in a statement.

Worker safety has been a focal point of nationwide union campaigns at Amazon facilities. Last year, Amazon workers at the warehouse near Albany, New York that was cited by OSHA on Wednesday voted nearly two-to-one against unionizing.

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at