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Dept. of Labor investigates worker deaths at Amazon distribution centers

By Arturo Garcia
Saturday, June 14, 2014 17:15 EDT
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Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, during a press conference in this September 06, 2012 file photo in Santa Monica, California (AFP/File, Joe Klamar)
 
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The U.S. Department of Labor has launched an investigation into worker safety at distribution centers for online shopping giant Amazon following the second fatal accident at company facilities within the past six months, Bloomberg News reported.

The most recent incident occurred on June 1, when an employee at an Amazon “fulfillment center” in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, died after the motorized pallet jack she was operating crashed into some shelves, resulting in her being pinned underneath.

The Associated Press identified the employee as 52-year-old Jody Rhoads. Coroners in Cumberland County determined she died from “multiple traumatic injuries.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched its own investigation into her death. Amazon promised to cooperate with OSHA’s probe.

“Any accident that occurs in a facility is one too many and we take these matters seriously,” the company said in a statement.

The “fulfillment centers” are Amazon’s hubs for shipping outgoing orders and inspecting incoming items, and are often staffed with hundreds of employees. The company has been accused of implementing stressful working conditions in the warehouse, such as establishing unattainable work goals to instill a sense of insecurity among workers.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that OSHA levied fines of $6,000 apiece against five companies working for Amazon following the December 2013 death of another employee, Ronald Smith, at a facility in Avenel, New Jersey. Smith was killed after getting stuck in a conveyor system and crushed.

“Temporary staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for the safety and health of temporary employees,” OSHA said in a statement at the time. “These employers must assess the work site to ensure that workers are adequately protected from potential hazards. It is essential that employers protect all workers from job hazards — both temporary and permanent workers.”

OSHA found that a Pittsburgh-based firm, Genco, was cited for not ensuring that the facility had been checked for health hazards before assigning employees to work there. Genco was hired by Amazon to supervise employees hired through four temporary staffing agencies at the Avenel facility.

The four agencies — Corporate Resource Services, Remedy Intelligent Staffing, Staffmark, and Abacus, which employed Smith — were also cited for failing to check the building for health hazards before placing workers there.

[h/t Daily Digest News]

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

Arturo Garcia
Arturo Garcia
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
 
 
 
 
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