Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, and Representative Joseph Kennedy III are demanding information from Amazon after a report that found the rate of injuries at the company’s Fall River warehouse was nearly three times the average for the warehouse industry.
In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the three lawmakers asked what the company was doing to reduce the number of injuries after a report from Reveal News and the Center for Investigative Reporting found many of Amazon’s warehouses saw higher than average rates of serious injury.
“As we near the end of the peak season, we are seeking answers about why so many Massachusetts workers are getting seriously injured at Amazon fulfillment centers, and your plans to prioritize the safety of workers at all of your Massachusetts facilities during your busiest period of the year, and at all other times,” Warren, Markey, and Kennedy wrote in the letter.
At the fulfillment center in Fall River, the November Reveal News report found 11.76 serious injuries per 100 workers, nearly triple the warehouse industry average. The nonprofit news outlet found that worker injuries spiked nationally over Prime Day, when Amazon offers discounts on many items, and Cyber Monday, as the holiday shopping season ramps up. In a statement to the Globe, an Amazon spokesperson said the spikes were attributable to an influx of temporary workers and that the average injury rate per person has either remained stable or decreased during busy periods.
The injuries sustained by workers at the Fall River facility included concussions, sprains involving the back, neck, ankle, knee, and other joints, and other issues, according to the Reveal News report. Many of the injuries required several days away from work.
Reveal News spoke to former workers who said meeting performance expectations at times meant sacrificing safe handling practices in the name of speed. Several news reports in recent years have documented the punishing pace Amazon warehouse workers must maintain as the company races to deliver packages to customers to meet one-day or in some cases same-day delivery promises.
In a statement to the Globe, a spokesperson for Amazon said the company’s injury rates are higher because of its “aggressive stance on recording injuries no matter how big or small,” making comparisons to industry averages “misleading.”
“We err on the side of recording an injury versus not recording it, because continuous improvement is at the core of our culture – we want to keep getting better, and if you don’t have the data, improvement is difficult,” the statement said.
The letter from Warren, Markey, and Kennedy comes just days after Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ilhan Omar demanded that the federal workplace safety agency OSHA release worker safety records for every Amazon warehouse facility in the United States.
“Working conditions in the United States of America should be the best and safest in the world. Unfortunately, that is not the case at Amazon," Sanders and Omar wrote.
Amazon employs more than 250,000 full-time workers at its fulfillment centers nationwide, according to the company, and hired about 100,000 temporary workers for the holiday rush last year.