This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
Amazon has been touting its tens of millions of dollars in robots to improve the efficiency and safety of its distribution center operations.
But nonprofit media outlet Reveal analyzed information obtained from the Center for Investigative Reporting and Amazon's internal safety reports and the number of weekly injuries from its 150 Amazon fulfillment centers, and found that the rate of Amazon employee injuries since 2016 has continued to increase each year.
Amazon says it "strongly refutes" the report, which claims it is misleading the public on the rate of workplace injuries. What the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls a "serious injury" can include "any type of injury, including pain from a muscle strain or sprain," it argued. The company also claims that it continues to make "improvements to prevent and reduce injuries" through the provision of workspace support equipment, the installation of forklift truck guardrails to separate employees from the rest of the workforce, and an improvement program that focuses on ergonomic aspects.
However, there was no word of denial from Amazon regarding Reveal's report that the employee injury rate is increasing every year, according to CNBC.
The report also recorded that Amazon had 14,000 "serious injuries" across its distribution centers in 2019. This equates to 7.7 people per 100 employees.
In addition, Reveal found that doctors sent by OSHA to examine Amazon's distribution centers found that employees were atrophied in some workplaces and were reluctant to report injuries or seek treatment at outside medical facilities. They noted that the company's policies to reduce lost-time injuries, especially when they reported that the company's policy to reduce lost-time injuries eventually worked to keep people from reporting their absences, contradicted claims by Amazon executives that workplace safety enhancements had reduced injuries.
The reason why more employees are getting injured as a result of robotic automation may be because the company has unrealistic expectations of the people who work there. Amazon used to (and still does in non-automated workplaces) instruct its employees, known as pickers, to scan 100 items off the shelves per hour. But as a result of replacing some of the work with robots, Amazon is now requiring pickers to scan up to 400 items per hour. This makes it unlikely that people will be able to work safely and effortlessly.
There is also a particular increase in disasters around Prime Day, which occurs around July each year, and there is reportedly a shortage of safety personnel in the workplace.
Since its acquisition of Kiva Systems (now Amazon Robotics) in 2012, Amazon has been increasing the deployment of robots in its distribution centers to "improve efficiency and safety". However, Reveal has also reported in previous studies that the number of serious injuries at Amazon's facilities is much higher than the average in the industry.
Amazon has issued a statement to several media outlets saying, "“We strongly refute the claims that we’ve misled anyone. At Amazon, we are known for obsessing over customers—but we also obsess about our employees and their safety. Reveal is misinformed and guided by a sense of activism rather than journalism. The reporter is misinterpreting data, and the very internal documents he claims to have obtained ultimately illustrate one thing—we have a deep focus on the safety of our teams," the company denies Reveal's report verbatim.
This isn't the first report of allegedly harsh working conditions at Amazon's distribution centers. Considering the repetition of these reports, it's fair to assume that there is something more to it. If, as CNBC points out, there is no counterargument for the increase in injury rates, and if there are indeed more injuries, then it seems that no amount of claimed safety efforts are working.
This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.