Amazon’s warehouse tragedy puts its safety procedures under the microscope

An Amazon warehouse in Illinois was struck by a tornado, killing 6 people. Now, the company’s safety practices are under investigation.

Photo by TIM VIZER/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon has faced scrutiny for its warehouse practices before, but recent events have taken it to another level.

Last Friday night, an Amazon warehouse in Illinois was struck by a tornado, causing part of the building to collapse, and killing at least 6 employees, per The New York Times.

In the wake of the tragedy…

… some of Amazon’s warehouse practices have been put under the microscope, including:

  • Cellphone bans*: The practice prohibits employees from using phones on the warehouse floor unless it’s an emergency. Employees argue phones are necessary to access alerts about extreme weather events before they happen.
  • Emergency training: Some warehouse employees say they haven’t had any emergency training, safety training, or fire drills during their time at the company — in some cases stretching as far back as 6 years.

Employees who previously insisted on safety drills were met with resistance due to scheduling challenges and a general pause on safety drills during the pandemic.

One former member of the safety committee at a distribution center in Kent, Washington, claims the reason is more sinister: “It’s because it would cost them a lot of money to stop production long enough to do it.”

Investigators are stepping in

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation into the building collapse.

The organization has 6 months to assess if there were any clear-cut safety violations and determine the scope of penalties from there.

*NOTE: Amazon isn’t the only logistics company that bans cellphones on the warehouse floor — FedEx also faced recent scrutiny over the practice.

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