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Amazon workplace safety inspections took weeks

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Amazon workplace safety inspections took weeks

Senior OSHA officials and sometimes federal prosecutors held numerous meetings on workplace safety issues at Amazon.com Inc. warehouses in the weeks and months leading up to Monday’s inspections, according to records obtained by Bloomberg Law show.

Inspections of Amazon’s fulfillment centers near New York, Chicago and Orlando, Fla., were the culmination of weekly Occupational Safety and Health Administration meetings that began in May , according to agency meeting schedules obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Monday that the Civil Division is investigating potential safety risks to workers at Amazon warehouses nationwide and possible fraudulent conduct intended to conceal the injuries of the OSHA and other law enforcement agencies.

Frequent attendees of the online sessions included OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Amanda Edens, who oversees OSHA’s law enforcement directorate, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Lillywhite of the District’s Civil Division. southern New York, according to meeting notices.

Eric Frumin, director of safety and health of the trade union federation Strategic Organization Centersaid that in his 48 years of organized work, this is the first time he’s seen a U.S. attorney’s office play a major role in an OSHA workplace safety investigation.

“I don’t remember the Department of Justice being so closely involved at the start of an inspection,” he said.

OSHA declined Tuesday to discuss the meetings. The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not respond to a similar request.

Worker awareness

As part of its involvement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has also begun asking former and current Amazon employees to contact federal prosecutors and provide information about working conditions.

Among the questions asked in a online survey are:

  • “Have you seen any workers working in an unsafe way to try to meet their productivity/pace requirements?”
  • “Do you believe Amazon discourages workers from reporting injuries?” and
  • “Do you believe Amazon managers retaliate against workers who report injuries?”

OSHA said in a statement that Monday’s inspections were based on referrals from the U.S. attorney. The agency declined to say how many facilities were inspected and whether the probes were limited to issues specified in the referrals.

Generally, an OSHA complaint-based inspection is limited to the hazards giving rise to the complaint.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a written statement that the company expects to be cleared. “We will of course be cooperating with OSHA in their investigation, and we believe this will ultimately show that these concerns are unfounded,” she said.

OSHA inspections of Amazon facilities rarely result in citations. For example, in 2021, OSHA launched 31 inspections at Amazon work sites and only three led to citations. Fines totaled $20,907.

Frumin said he hopes OSHA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will investigate ergonomic issues such as the pace of work at Amazon’s warehouses. A 2022 report from the Center for Strategic Organization concluded that Amazon uses productivity and monitoring systems to increase the pressure on workers to move at a fast pace, leading to muscle strain and repetitive motion injuries .

He pointed to the Washington State Division of Occupational Safety and Health to propose in March, a $60,000 fine against an Amazon warehouse for ergonomic violations.