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Podcast claims injuries rising, going unreported at Amazon warehouses

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

A new episode of the “Reveal” podcast says as workers try to meet rising demand, injuries at Amazon warehouses are also on the rise.

Titled “Catching Amazon in a Lie,” the podcast — which is produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting and Public Radio Exchange — says it has obtained data showing that serious injuries have gone up over the past four years.

“There’s a big difference between what Amazon says is happening and what its records show,” Reveal reporter Will Evans says in the podcast. “And what they say about worker safety often just isn’t true … between 2016 and 2019, as demands on workers were going up, so were injuries. They didn’t even meet their own internal safety goals.”

Evans says last year, there were more than 14,000 serious injuries at Amazon warehouses, which he notes is “twice the industry average.”

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These injuries can range from lasting back problems to other kinds of muscle pain. One California Amazon worker told Evans she threw her back out while trying to meet her quota of loading an item onto a rack every 11 seconds.

Evans interviewed another former employee from a DuPont warehouse who said that pizza parties were given to celebrate going for a length of time with no injuries; the employee felt like the parties were a bribe to get people not to report their injuries.

With Prime Day coming up Oct. 13-14, another spike in injuries at Amazon warehouses could be on the horizon. Evans says in the podcast that injuries have gone up during the busiest times for orders, such as the holiday season or Prime Day.

“Amazon has repeatedly said to us and other media that injury rates do not spike during these busy times … It’s just not true. Amazon’s own data shows that their injury rates do spike around Prime Day and during the holidays,” he says. “And Amazon knew this when they told us the exact opposite — we saw it in their internal reports.”

Evans says he also discovered that one Colorado Amazon warehouse found a way around reporting serious injuries to the federal government, as is required by law.

“They fired one clinic, and hired another medical clinic, Advanced Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine, that advertises it will help clinics by keeping injuries not recordable — and after that, injury levels at the same warehouse started to go down,” he said.

He says this means doctors would be told not to give injured employees recommendations of less physically-demanding work so that the injury would not have to be formally recorded as a work-related problem.

In a statement for KIRO Radio, Amazon says it has invested more than $1 billion this year in worker safety measures.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams … Our investments in safety training and education programs, in technology and new safety infrastructure are working,” the statement reads. “We continue to see improvements through programs focused on improved ergonomics, delivering guided physical and wellness exercises to our associates at their workstation, mechanical workstation assistance equipment, improving workstation setup and design, forklift telematics, forklift guardrails to separate equipment from pedestrians, and parking lot improvements—to name a few.”

“While any incident is one too many, we are continuously learning and improving our programs to prevent future incidents.”

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