Washington state regulators say Amazon’s workflow and pace injures warehouse workers

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Washington state workplace regulators fined and admonished Amazon for pushing workers at its DuPont, Wash. fulfillment center so relentlessly that it resulted in workplace injuries. Additionally, the company was cited for lack of follow-through on its own ergonomic plans. 

According to the citation from the state Department of Labor and Industries, Amazon managers at the DuPont warehouse, “did not provide employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause serious injury.” The department fined the online retail giant $7,000 for the violation. 

An Amazon spokesperson didn’t return calls seeking comment. The Seattle Times first reported the story.

Pay and high-pressure nature of warehouse work at Amazon has been a magnet for criticism for years. After critical comments by members of Congress and labor leaders, the company three years ago adjusted to a minimum $15 an hour wage throughout all of its U.S. fulfillment centers. Workplace safety and the relentless push to process packages led to an attempt this year to unionize workers in Bessemer, Ala. The union organization attempt failed.

In DuPont, state regulators who inspected the plant noted, “Employees are expected to maintain a very high pace of work. Information collected documented that pressure is put on workers to maintain that pace without adequate recovery time to reduce the risk of MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders). There is a direct connection between Amazon’s employee monitoring and discipline systems and workplace MSDs.”

Amazon grades employees on their ability to meet a specific workflow. Employees who don’t meet the processing standard or who make too many mistakes meeting the hourly package rate can be fired. 

Recognizing that Amazon’s reputation as an employer had taken a hit, particularly during the bruising union fight, founder and outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos said the company’s long-term goal was straightforward: to make the company an admired employer worldwide.

“We are going to be Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work,” Bezos wrote in his final letter to shareholders one month ago. 

At one million square feet, the DuPont facility is the second-largest in the state behind the Spokane, Wash., warehouse. It specializes in larger items to ship such as canoes and televisions. 

See the full Department of Labor and Industries citation and notice below:

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