Amazon warehouses still had higher injury rates in 2020

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Amazon’s number of serious injuries at its warehouses was nearly twice as high as the rest of the industry in 2020, according to recently released data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in reports from both. The Washington Post and the Strategic Organizing Center (a collection of unions representing more than 4 million workers across the country).

According to the analyzes of both groups of the OSHA data, which run from 2017 through 2020, Amazon employees suffered 5.9 “serious” injuries — defined as incidents in which employees were given time off or a change in work responsibilities while recovering — per 200,000 hours worked (a metric that includes 100 employees who work full-time throughout the year). That’s compared to 3.3 injuries for the same statistic in the rest of the warehousing industry. Walmart, one of Amazon’s largest retail competitors, had a rate of 2.5 serious injuries per 200,000 hours, more than half of Amazon’s serious injuries rate.

On the one hand, the new data represents an improvement over 2019, when a report from To reveal of the Center for Research Reporting showed that Amazon had an overall rate of 7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees. And that lower percentage is a potentially promising trend to see despite the surge in total Amazon shipping in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the rate of 5.9 serious injuries per 100 employees — although still nearly twice as high as the rest of the industry — is actually Amazon’s best year in some time, given that The Washington Post and To reveal noted that the company had significantly higher overall injury rates in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel noted that “While any incident is one too many, we are constantly learning and seeing improvements through ergonomics programs, guided exercises on employees’ workstations, mechanical assistance equipment, workstation layout and design, and forklift telematics and crash barriers, just to name a few.” Nantel also noted that Amazon invested more than $1 billion in new security measures last year as it expanded its health and safety team.

But it’s particularly telling that even at the lowest serious injury rate in years, Amazon’s warehouses still have a dramatically higher injury rate than the rest of the industry. As an Amazon employee complained to: The Washington Post, the company set “unrealistic expectations” by pushing employees to meet productivity numbers.

Last fall, Amazon disputed the original report of To reveal, arguing that the interpretation of the OSHA data used to classify a “serious” injury — defined in the various reports here as one requiring time off or work reassignments — is biased by what the company claims a more generous recovery time.