Amazon aims to cut its workplace injury rate by half

Amazon, which has faced criticism for the industry-average injury rate in its warehouses, said it is taking steps to halve the rate of workplace injuries by 2025.

Amazon announced in a news release the company is launching a suite of new programs grouped under the moniker “Workingwell” designed to fit and keep its nearly 1 million warehouse workers around the world.

“The health and safety of our employees has always been Amazon’s top priority,” the company wrote in the release. “Workingwell uses scientifically proven physical and mental activities, health exercises and healthy eating habits to help the body recharge and regenerate, and ultimately reduce the risk of injury for operations staff.”

Amazon’s nationwide injury rate was about 7.7 injuries per 100 employees in 2019, nearly double the warehouse industry average, an investigation by Reveal for the Center for Investigative Reporting found. In some places, the injury rate was even higher. The investigation found that workers at Amazon’s warehouse in DuPont, Pierce County, were injured at a rate five times higher than the warehouse industry average.

In his most recent letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos committed the company to becoming “Earth’s best employer and the safest place on Earth to work.”

The new measures, however, circumvent an issue that some Amazon critics and employees have said is the root of many injuries at Amazon’s hundreds of warehouses: the company’s focus on speed.

Previous media reports have stated that warehouse workers unloading pallets, scanning goods, and working in packing boxes are expected to work at a speed that some find inappropriate. As Amazon began automating more warehouse tasks, replacing workers with robots that never slowed down or took breaks, the injury rate rose, according to Reveal.

An employee at Amazon’s Kent warehouse, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the injuries “happen a lot. All the time.”

He sees responsibility for the injuries shared between workers and Amazon: not all workers properly pick up the package or follow the stretching regiment, which Amazon recommends, but the company also hopes that the worker Go ahead with the speed, which not everyone can maintain, he said.

“I have seen people come here on the first day and leave in the afternoon,” he said, because the work is very difficult.

The Workingwell program focuses on reducing the incidence of injuries caused by repetitive motion by prompting employees for short breaks and stretches. Amazon is ramping up its education on workplace injury prevention and healthy eating, and is creating a wellness-focused mobile app for employees.

According to Amazon, in pilot programs, Workingwell helped reduce muscle sprain-like injuries by 32% between 2019 and 2020, although the company noted that the company’s other initiatives focused on lowering injury rates were run concurrently. She was Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for more details about those concurrent initiatives, or how much Workwell alone reduced injury rates.

The company is also expanding its network of health care services for employees, providing on-site primary care services to employees, both on-site clinics and what it calls the Neighborhood Health Center.

Amazon has been called by federal workplace regulators to use its health centers to hide the extent of injuries in the company’s warehouses. In 2019, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that some of Amazon’s on-site clinics were sending injured employees back to work without referring them to a physician for further medical care.

Injuries should be reported to OSHA if the employee sees a physician or requires workplace accommodation as a result of the injury. Amazon did not immediately respond to questions about its standards for reporting injuries.

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