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New publication illuminates risks to warehouse workers

Certain industries, like manufacturing, commercial fishing, health care and construction are infamous for workplace accidents and higher rates of workers' compensation claims than others. Lately, the warehouses that fulfill orders for online retailers, such as the eight Amazon facilities in Pennsylvania - including one in Pittsburgh - have received heightened attention from regulators and watchdog organizations.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) included Amazon among its 2018 list of the "Dirty Dozen" employers. National COSH releases the list every year during Workers' Memorial Week (April 23 through April 30) to draw attention to preventable workplace accidents and repeated safety or health violations. It was Amazon's warehouses and fulfillment centers that landed the company on the list.

Since 2013, seven workers have been killed at Amazon warehouse facilities in accidents that investigators deemed to be preventable. Included among this "disturbing pattern" were the "preventable deaths" of three workers that occurred over the course of little more than a month in 2017. One of the deaths occurred when a worker was run over by a truck at the Amazon facility located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Many of the deaths and injuries that have occurred at Amazon facilities can be attributed to the company's emphasis of productivity over safety. Workers must adhere to strict time limits and meet productivity levels when rushing to pick products in order to fulfill orders. Amazon has also received complaints about workers not receiving sufficient time for breaks - even to use a restroom. In spite of the accidents, the company has plans to monitor its workers even more closely.

Source: National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, "The Dirty Dozen 2018: Employers who put workers and communities at risk," accessed May 7, 2018.

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