Sixty-six percent of Amazon employees at the company’s Staten Island distribution center reported working while in pain, according to a new report released by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).
The worker safety organization timed the report, "Time off Task: Pressure, Pain, and Productivity at Amazon" to coincide with the anniversary of the Staten Island facility's opening.
NYCOSH also found that:
- 80% of workers were pressured to work harder or faster at their facility and
- 42% continued to experience pain even when they weren't at work
Amazon has been criticized by safety advocates for fostering a workplace culture that prioritizes line speeds over employee health. Several workers cited in the report expressed being evaluated and docked points for the amount of "time off task" spend in a day. "Time off tasks" refers to any break that a worker takes, excluding their legally required 30-minute lunch break. If a worker has too much time off task, they may be disciplined and are ultimately subject to termination for poor performance.
“You can't expect workers to work safely when they are going to be docked points if they take a break for a sip of water," said NYCOSH Executive Director and report co-author Charlene Obernauer.
Former head of OSHA Dr. David Michaels said “Time-off Task” “is an eye-opening report documenting the pain suffered by the Amazon fulfillment center workers who are forced to work at dangerous speeds to ensure the packages Americans order arrive quickly." Michaels is currently George Washington University School of Public Health Professor.
Debbie Berkowitz, Worker Health and Safety Program Director at National Employment Law Project said, “It is stunning that Amazon is not doing more to protect workers. The company has an obligation to provide safe conditions and make sure their workers are not sacrificing their health for company profits."
Jessica Martinez, NYCOSH co-executive director, noted that the injuries documented by the group’s researchers could be prevented through a worker-centered ergonomics program, better staffing, “and other measures that are well within reach for a company with billions in annual profits."
"Amazon has pioneered world-class logistics and can move products around the country and around the globe in a matter of hours," said Martinez. "Jeff Bezos and other company executives owe us some answers. If the company is truly committed to 'operational excellence,' why can't they find a way to reduce injuries and fatalities?"