According to the new Amazon CEO, the company’s “injury rates are sometimes misunderstood.” I guess that’s his “spin” on the high numbers. In modern society, “I’m just misunderstood” seems to be the first defense for people who do NOT want accountability for their bad or dangerous decisions!
The Amazon CEO’s letter reminds me of a construction injury case I worked several years ago. I represented a steel worker who suffered disabling injuries in a worksite fall on a Huntsville project. The contractor did nothing for safety — No real safety plan. No real safety meetings. No real safety equipment. At trial, the construction company’s executive claimed his company was safe and my case was just a “misunderstanding” of their safety culture. The executive then bragged from the witness stand about a safety award the company won (and proudly displayed on its website). Here’s the problem with their so-called award — It was a complete spin. They had multiple accidents and even deaths on their worksites. The award only counted project managers. It did not count the workers doing the real (and dangerous) jobs. It was a fake award. If any “misunderstanding” existed, it was because the company was trying to spin its safety failures. Fortunately, the truth came out in our trial. We were able to hold the company accountable for all our client’s personal injuries and damages.
Is safety a real concern or not? Do some companies manipulate the numbers to lie about their safety record? Are these companies simply “misunderstood” as Amazon’s CEO claims? What’s the real truth?
I’ve represented injured clients in Alabama for over 25 years. I believe some companies and managers truly work hard to create a safe working environment. But, many others merely pay lip service to the concept. For these others, production is always more important than lives.
So, what’s the truth with Amazon? Should we blindly believe the CEO when he says everything is OK? Don’t look behind the curtain? No, let’s look at some real research.
Last year, the BBC published an article discussing actual safety data from Amazon workers. What did the safety data show? According to the data, Amazon warehouse workers suffered injury rates “almost 80% higher than the rest of the industry.” That’s a huge difference in injury rates between Amazon and its competitors!
Now, I’m no fan of how Walmart treats its injured workers. I’ve tried numerous work comp claims in Alabama courtrooms against that company. But, the article detailing this safety study also made this interesting observation about the data:
And compared to its largest retail competitor Walmart, Amazon’s overall injury rate was more than double. . .
But that’s not all. The BBC article then details a list of other Amazon “misunderstandings” related to its own safety.
- In 2021, the company had to apologize for falsely denying its drivers were forced to urinate in plastic bottles (due to the time pressures of driving for the company).
- The company faced accusations of “cutting corners” on Covid safety during the pandemic.
- An Amazon warehouse pamphlet told workers their jobs required walking up to 13 miles per day and, for some, lifting a total of up to 20,000 pounds per shift. Amazon later claimed the pamphlet was created in error and removed.
Other news outlets have also published research concerning Amazon worker injuries. A CBS news article reports, Amazon Workers Have Highest Warehouse Injury Rate, Labor Groups Say. Some articles are a little more graphic with the data, like the one published a couple years earlier in the Atlantic titled, Ruthless Quotas At Amazon Are Maiming Employees.
I could continue with my earlier list of actual Amazon safety “misunderstandings” but this post would be too long. The issue relates back to the original question. Is Amazon’s safety record simply “misunderstood” as the CEO seems to claim? Or, does the company put speed and production over the lives and health of its workers? Is Amazon warehouse work safe or not? These reports clearly say it is NOT safe?
As a lawyer who represents people through the work comp process, initial safety is not the only issue. After the accident or injury, how the company treats its workers is also very important. I regularly have to fight for clients simply because the company delayed or refused proper accident reporting or medical care.
How does Amazon treat its workers after an accident? According to a 2015 OSHA investigation cited in another article, “Amazon’s on-site clinics would send injured workers back to work instead of referring them to another clinic for proper medical attention.” Later OSHA investigations revealed more of the same:
Workers were still being discouraged from reporting injuries in 2017 and from seeking outside medical attention in 2019.
In another communication from OSHA:
OSHA criticized Amazon for explicitly allowing AmCare, Amazon’s system of on-site medical clinics, to delay sending workers to a doctor for up to 21 days. The result was that workers’ injuries got worse while they waited for proper medical care.
Is it really all one big misunderstanding? The higher accident and injury rates. The apologies only after being caught. The delays in reporting accidents or providing medical care. I don’t think it’s a misunderstanding at all.
I go back to my original opinion. Some companies truly value their people. These companies work hard to create a safe workplace. If an accident does occur, they try to get proper medical care for the injured worker. But, some companies take a different approach. That approach puts profits over any concern for people. Those companies may make a lot of money for the executives or largest shareholders. But, they leave a trail of damage and destruction that costs all of us far more. Next time a CEO in a suit claims a large number of worker injuries and deaths is simply a “misunderstanding,” take a look at the real data. He’s probably covering for a dangerous workplace.
Our lawyers represent injured workers. We are Huntsville personal injury lawyers helping clients statewide. We’ve prepared personal injury and workers’ compensation claims for trial in counties across Alabama. If you have questions about an Alabama accident or injury issue, let us know. We are happy to provide answers. Our consultations are always confidential.