Warehouse employees work notoriously long hours in physically demanding jobs. As a result, it isn’t usually surprising when warehouse workers suffer job-related physical harm. However, it’s important to remember that simply because a particular kind of work-related physical harm is common, that doesn’t mean that it should be.
The law broadly protects workers from the risk of repetitive strain injuries, toxic exposure, and accidents in the workplace. Unfortunately, employers don’t always do what the should – and what they can – to prevent occupational injuries and occupational illness. As an experienced injury lawyer – including those who practice at Davis, Johnson & Kallal – can attest, when employers are negligent in their approaches to their responsibilities, workers need to understand both that they have rights and how to exercise those rights efficiently and effectively.
What Happened at Amazon?
A recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announcement concerning Amazon serves as an excellent example of why workers need to understand their rights. Employers – even those which are frequently scrutinized by the media and regulators alike – simply don’t always take their practical and legal responsibilities seriously.
The DOL announced in January that several Amazon warehouses were being fined for failure to sufficiently safeguard workers from ergonomic hazards. As a result of this failure, the company received hazard letters from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well. OSHA indicated that each warehouse had failed to honor workplace safety obligations per the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s so-called general-duty clause.
Similar violations and hazard letters were announced in July 2022 concerning Amazon warehouses in three other states. This pattern of Amazon’s warehouse worker safety failures is concerning, to say the least.
What Is Happening to the Warehouse Workers?
The two primary concerns that both the initial and recent investigations into Amazon warehouse practices revealed are unreasonably long shifts and musculoskeletal injuries occurring due to the ways in which employees are compelled to work during these shifts. Workers are subjected to a high risk of injuries to their low backs, for example, according to OSHA. This risk stems from the frequency with which warehouse workers at Amazon are compelled to twist, bend, and extend their bodies awkwardly during their long shifts.
The Assistant Secretary for Occupational Health and Safety summed up the situation best by observing that, “”Amazon’s operating methods are creating hazardous work conditions and processes, leading to serious worker injuries. They (sic) need to take these injuries seriously and implement a company-wide strategy to protect their employees from these well-known and preventable hazards.”
While a low back injury may not seem as extreme as some of the injuries that occur regularly in other industries, if you speak to anyone who suffers from chronic, severe back pain, you’ll gain an understanding of how serious these findings actually are.
Whether you work in a warehouse or you work at any other location where your safety rights as a worker are not respected, don’t hesitate to connect with a legal professional about your rights and options under the law. It bears repeating that simply because a particular kind of injury or injury risk is common within an industry doesn’t mean that it should be.