Amazon Warehouse Injuries: the Dark Side of the Retail Giant’s Safety Crisis

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Inside of an Amazon warehouse

Have you ever thought about the process necessary to get a package you order to your door safely? It starts at the manufacturing end, where companies and workers must ensure all products are designed and manufactured in a safe manner.

A component of this is ensuring best safety practices in the industry are in place. From there, products are delivered to Amazon warehouses, where thousands of workers work incredibly hard under the crushing demand of consumers to get items packed up and shipped to their door.

This leads to Amazon warehouse injuries in many situations. 

Is that demand so great that Amazon is thinking about profits before safety? A number of recent reports about injuries at Amazon locations have brought the company's safety crisis to the forefront of the industry.

Amazon has more than 100,000 employees working in its warehouses. That makes it one of the largest employers in the United States.

If Amazon wants to avoid further tragedy, it needs to take a serious look at its safety policies and practices.

What are the top causes of Amazon warehouse injuries?

Many of the most significant injuries at Amazon warehouses are those related to musculoskeletal disorders. This accounts for about 40% of work-related injuries in the company, impacting millions of people around the globe.

According to reports, these are some of the most commonly reported injuries, which often include strains, sprains, carpal tunnel, and similar injuries. 

Some state that these injuries occur because of the repetitive nature of the actions workers must perform, with almost robotic-like precision.

Others could include slips and falls, with others including lacerations and even broken bones and concussions in some cases.

Many believe Amazon workplace injuries are due to the ruthless requirements employees have to meet quota. 

Can I sue Amazon for an injury at work?

If you are an employee of Amazon and suffer an injury at work, you may have the right to compensation for those losses. It is important to show that the injury occurred while at work and while engaging in work-related activities.

In every situation, if you are hurt at work, seek out immediate medical care. It is critical to ensure that you can document what occurred and how it occurred, along with the underlying cause, when possible.

Report this to the medical provider who may be able to assist you in gathering the necessary information to use in your claim. 

Can you sue Amazon for these losses? That really depends, and it may be quite limited. However, you have the right to workers' compensation benefits if you were hurt on the job and it was the result of negligence. 

It's quite important to work with a workplace injury attorney before trying to file claims or pursue legal action.

Because Amazon is a very large company, it has powerful insurance agents and attorneys who have the sole job of reducing Amazon's liability in claims like this.

You do not want to go up against them on your own.

Instead, learn a bit more about your rights and what is happening within the industry before you take any action yourself in these cases.

Critics argue that Amazon is more concerned with profit margins than worker safety

Amazon has not acted fast enough to reduce injuries at its warehouses. It has been slow to address the underlying issues and take action that significantly improves safety conditions in its warehouses. 

Amazon has tried to downplay the seriousness of these accidents. However, they are indicative of a larger problem within the company's safety culture.

In fact, worker advocates have warmed that Amazon's drive for efficiency and speed comes at the cost of worker safety. 

Can unions give Amazon employees the voice they need to improve worker safety?

At their core, unions give employees the ability to talk about their safety hazards and the risks of work without fear of retaliation.

In short, workers are less likely to open up about what is putting them at risk when they fear losing their job for talking about it. Unions can also be very helpful because they put pressure on employers to make changes to the safety problems that exist.

That means that employers now have the incentive to fix and prevent problems within their warehouses. If they fail to make those changes, they face a significant drop in productivity.

That costs them money.

Amazon claims it is working to improve injury rates. Jeff Bezos seems to be all for it. He has told shareholders that scrutiny of the company's operations is "good for us" and that "Nothing is more important."

In 2018, the company set out to lower the injury rate by 20%. However, instead of that occurring, it increased. Then, in 2019, it aimed to reduce worker injuries by 5%, a much lower overall goal. Instead, the injury rate increased again

There are many reasons and potential causes for such injuries. One example of this comes from Amazon's robotic fulfillment centers. These locations have more use of technology that aims to speed up operations and picking activities.

Yet, they also have seriously higher injury rates.

More so, at the most common type of fulfillment center the company has, which typically ships smaller and medium-sized items, the rates of Amazon employee injuries were 50% higher at a warehouse with robots than those that do not have them from 2016 to 2019. 

COVID-19 is an example of the importance of workers' rights

Consider, for a moment, how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the importance of unions. During the pandemic, unionized workers were able to obtain the necessary safety measures they needed, as well as things like premium pay and more time off.

They also had the ability to ask for and obtain work-share arrangements as well as utilize furloughs in order to protect jobs. Those employees within unions had a collective voice, according to Economic Policy Institute

The COVID-19 pandemic sheds light on the importance of having those rights. In a situation like this, where people needed support, they were often able to seek it out from employers because of their affiliation with unions.

In other industries where union rights were not present, it was up to the employer to determine what the best practices in safety would be.

There is some evidence that Amazon even encourages workers not to seek out the help they need. An investigation in New Jersey found the company was discouraging workers from reporting injuries (in 2017) and from seeking outside medical care (in 2019). 

OSHA itself has noted that Amazon's policy for allowing AmCare, the onsite medical clinics within the Amazon system, to exclusively provide care and delay sending Amazon employees to the doctor for up to 21 days was not ideal.

Often, worker injuries worsened before they received the care they needed. 

Amazon promises investment, but changes lag

Amazon has spent a significant amount of money on improving safety practices. Even with tens of millions invested, Amazon's injury rates have not improved but have gotten worse over the last few years. 

In 2019, RevealNews reports Amazon fulfillment centers had 14,000 serious injuries. Serious injuries are those that require days off or some type of job restriction. That is an injury rate of 7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees. That is also a 33% increase in serious injuries since 2016.

Additionally, these injury rates increase during the Prime Day and Cyber Monday weeks, when the warehouses are often working at a very high pace to keep up with demand during sale periods. 

Amazon warehouse workers in New York City walked out

The conditions were serious enough that a group of workers from Amazon's warehouse in New York City joined together and walked out.

They set out to protect the safety conditions present. This walkout led to Chris Smalls, one of the lead organizers, being fired by Amazon.

At the time of this writing, his case is being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the New York State Attorney General. However, under today's current laws, Smalls has no right to bring any lawsuit against his employer based on the incidents that occurred. 

Hurt at work? Speak with an Amazon injury lawyer about your rights 

Amazon may easily be one of the largest companies in the country, but that does not eliminate its requirement to provide a safe working place for its employees. It is clear, from evidence on multiple fronts, that there are limits on what Amazon has done to protect worker safety.

Even as it continues to promise investments to change safety, these efforts have not created enough results to eliminate injury risk.

There is a need for strong and significant change that will help improve workplace safety practices at Amazon warehouses in New York. 

If you're an Amazon warehouse employee that's been injured or would like to learn more about your rights following a workplace injury, an Amazon injury lawyer from Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm can help.

Speak with an experienced Amazon injury lawyer at our firm today to discuss your rights and legal options.

NEXT STEP: Call 212-268-3222 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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