Amazon has found its way on to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s “dirty dozen” list after reports of poor working conditions and even suicides have plagued the e-commerce giant’s health and safety track record.
The Council has noted in its latest report - which you can access here - that Amazon has had six worker deaths in seven months, for a total of 13 deaths since 2013, while many more have suffered injuries in the workplace, and mental health issues have also had a reported rise in frequency.
Also mentioned in the dirty dozen list was McDonald's USA, Purdue Pharma and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
According to Futurism’s Natalie Coleman, authors of the ‘dirty dozen’ list cited Amazon’s “high incidence of worker suicide attempts, overworked employees peeing in bottles to avoid punishment, and poor treatment of contract and temporary workers, which Amazon relies heavily on for all operations.”
This isn’t the first time Amazon has made the list, after making the cut on last year’s dirty dozen report; as Natalie Coleman says, “the Council argues nothing has improved since then.” The report notes that while “the e-commerce giant posted $11.2 billion in profits in 2018 while paying no federal income tax… there is little evidence the company has made a significant effort to address worker complaints about stress, overwork and other conditions which can lead to illness, injuries and even fatalities.”
The criteria for making the ‘dirty dozen’ list includes “severity of injuries to workers; exposure to unnecessary and preventable risk; repeat citations by relevant state and federal authorities; and activity by workers to improve their healths and safety conditions.”
An investigation from the Daily Beast claims that in a five-year period, emergency services were called to Amazon warehouses a total of 189 times following reports of suicide attempts.
The council’s report also mentions that according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “5,147 people died from workplace trauma in 2017. This is a slight decrease from 5,190 deaths in 2016. But the overall trend is still heading in the wrong direction: fatalities have increased by 11% since 2012.”
“In addition to more than 5,100 deaths from acute workplace trauma, an estimated 95,000 workers die annually in the US from cancers, respiratory and circulatory diseases and other illnesses associated with long-term exposure in the workplace.”
Coleman’s report also mentions the case of 48-year-old Billy Foister who died of a heart attack earlier this year at an Amazon warehouse in Columbus, Ohio. The Guardian says that after falling to the ground, it took more than 20 minutes for anyone in the facility to notice Foister’s condition and subsequently call an ambulance.
“It seems Amazon values money way more than life. If they did their job right, I wouldn’t have had to bury my brother.” - Edward Foister.
Amazon is now claiming that Foister didn’t die while at work, calling it a “personal medical issue” in an email to The Guardian. Coleman writes that “shortly after he was taken to the hospital, ‘everyone was forced to go back to work. No time to decompress’, an anonymous Amazon worker from the same shift told the Newspaper. ‘Basically watch a man pass away and then get told to get back to work, everyone, and act like it’s fine.”
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