Amazon Warehouse Accidents
Amazon’s warehouses have more workplace accidents than average
Amazon’s robot warehouses are a triumph in terms of productivity. The presence of automatons carrying out the most repetitive tasks is also supposed to help reduce the risk of accidents, but an internal company report points out exactly the opposite.
The Center for Investigative Reporting in the United States has had access to a document from the company on workplace accidents in its warehouses. The report’s findings are worrying. In 2019, Amazon warehouses registered more than 19,000 serious work-related accidents (meaning serious accidents that result in a loss of several days). This means that there are 7.7 accidents for every 100 workers. It is an average one third higher than in 2016, and almost double the loss ratio of the rest of the companies in the distribution sector.
The curious thing about the matter is that the report points to the automation of work as a factor that aggravates the accident rate, something that in principle we had been told was just the other way around. According to data from the Center for Investigative Reporting, automated warehouses have an average workplace accident rate 50% higher than that of traditional distribution centers. The Dupont warehouse, one of the most automated, shows an accident rate of 22 cases per 100 workers. It is almost five times more than the industry average.
Amazon robots aren’t exactly humanoid. The most common are a fleet of “Roombas” that are in charge of moving the shelves with packages from one side to another to bring the items to be shipped to the workers. The hectic activity of these small transporters has quadrupled productivity, but apparently it has also introduced new types of injuries that have not to do with robots colliding with human employees, but with bad posture and wear due to how robots have changed (for the worse) the tasks that humans perform.
Instead of walking every so often to find more items, workers now spend shifts of up to 10 hours standing in the same place wrapping packages and performing repetitive muscle tasks that robots cannot do for them. To make matters worse, the spectacular efficiency of robots bringing items forces workers to wrap up faster. The result is a dramatic spike in muscle and bone injuries. It seems that not everything is joyous in a future where robots were going to save us from the worst jobs. Amazon has not commented on the report and has limited itself to issuing a statement in which they assure that “the use of robots, automation and technology in our distribution centers is improving the workspace and making tasks safer and more efficient.”
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