Packages may regularly arrive at your door from this online retail giant. Some of us know that workers in this industry may be at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. We might wonder, is Amazon a safe place to work?
Amazon has become a lifeline for many of us stuck at home due to the pandemic. We either can’t or don’t want to go out shopping. We use Amazon instead. That convenience comes at a cost, not only in what we pay — it also puts some Amazon workers at a higher risk of getting sick with the virus.
Amazon by the Numbers
Many Amazon warehouse workers fear for their safety but stay on the job to pay their bills. Amazon, to keep up with demand, and to keep current and attract new employees, raised its minimum hourly wage from $15 to $17. It plans to hire 75,000 more people this month. It filled 100,000 positions last month. Amazon plans to spend $500 million in additional payroll, according to Forbes.
How big is Amazon? As of last year, it had 647,000 employees (which doesn’t count its recent hires). That’s six times as many as it had in 2013, reports Fast Company. In 1995 it had 11 employees. When we think about Amazon worker safety, we think about warehouses. The company also has web services and cloud storage divisions as well. It has a vast “back office” of workers keeping the business going. In 2017, it bought the Whole Foods supermarket chain.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos told employees in a blog last month, “We’re providing a vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable…People are depending on us,” according to another Fast Company article.
Accidents at Amazon
The magazine claims it interviewed several U.S. workers and labor advocates about accidents at Amazon. It found differing safety measures, physically demanding work, and workplace rules that go against public health recommendations. Despite the sickness and death caused globally by COVID-19, warehouse employees are expected to work, and some may have mandatory overtime because of increased sales.
One worker at a Staten Island, NY, warehouse stated that a co-worker tested positive for the virus, and every day working at Amazon posed a risk to his health. As of late March, workers at ten Amazon warehouses tested positive for COVID-19.
The coronavirus is very contagious. You can be infected and not even know it, while you breathe and cough out virus that could be inhaled by others. If the infection is on your hands and you touch a surface (including items being shipped and cardboard boxes), when a co-worker touches the same surface and then touches his or her face, an infection could occur.
Because the virus spreads so easily, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying at least six feet away from others. Given Amazon warehouses’ design and the number of people working there, as a practical matter, maintaining that distance without cutting staff is impossible. Workers also pass potentially contaminated items and boxes to each other. These conditions may mean that Amazon is not a safe place to work.
In response to the situation, an Amazon spokesperson told Fast Company that it’s cleaning high-traffic areas more intensely and frequently. It also requires employees who feel ill to stay home. One warehouse worker said that hand sanitizers are present, the bathrooms are cleaner, and lunchroom tables are farther apart, but all the workers are still in the warehouse together.
Production Quotas at Amazon Make a Bad Situation Worse
One thing COVID-19 hasn’t changed is Amazon’s grueling working conditions. Workers have strict quotas requiring physical labor during the length of a shift. The Atlantic reported in November that some workers must scan thousands of products a day. This makes bathroom breaks, frequent hand washing, and wiping down work areas difficult, if not impossible. Rushes to meet quotas can also lead to more accidents at Amazon warehouses.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, respirators, and gloves could help protect workers. A company spokesman claimed they’re available at the Staten Island facility, but Bezos, in another blog, stated that the company was having a hard time finding enough equipment. One reason, he says, is that governments are mandating that healthcare workers and first responders get priority for PPEs.
Amazon workers who feel unsafe at work have limited options, according to CNBC. They can use unlimited but unpaid time off through April. But that will probably be used only by those who can afford to go without paychecks. Amazon offers two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who test positive for the coronavirus or are in quarantine. Employees at Amazon facilities in Staten Island and Michigan have staged limited walkouts in protest.
These conditions aren’t just a threat to workers. They live in the communities around the warehouses. If they become ill, they could infect their families and those around them.
What Happens if You Fall While Working at Amazon?
In addition to the dangers of COVID-19, if you work at Amazon, you could slip and fall while performing your job. What happens if you fall while working at Amazon? You could file a workers’ compensation claim. Notify your supervisor as soon as possible after your fall, and you will probably have forms to fill out. You should note where, when, and why it happened, as well as the names of any witnesses. The warehouse is also probably fully covered by security cameras. This should also provide evidence to support your claim and discourage you from filing a false one.
If your claim is rejected, contact us for help. We may be able to provide additional information which could change the insurance company’s position. If not, we could go through the formal workers’ compensation process so you can obtain the best outcome possible.
Consult a Skilled NY Slip and Fall Attorney for Help with Your Case
Bringing an insurance claim or lawsuit against Amazon or another business can be confusing and complicated. If you have been injured in a fall and believe another party is the cause, one of our skilled attorneys will get you fair compensation for your injuries and the money you need to cover your medical bills. The attorneys at Kaplan Lawyers, PC are here to help you. Contact us at (516) 399-2364 to schedule a free case review.