The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a Hazard Alert Letter to Amazon, requiring the online retailer to review its severe weather emergency procedures after six contractors were fatally injured and another severely injured when a tornado struck Amazon’s Edwardsville warehouse on Dec. 10, 2021.
OSHA investigators determined that while Amazon’s severe weather emergency procedures met minimal federal safety guidelines for storm sheltering, the company should make improvements to further protect workers and contract drivers in future emergencies. OSHA does not have a standard that requires severe weather emergency plans but recommends them under the Occupational and Safety Health Act’s General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a place of employment free from known hazards.
“These tragic deaths have sparked discussions nationwide on the vital need for comprehensive workplace emergency plans,” said OSHA’s Regional Administrator William Donovan, in Chicago. “Employers should re-evaluate their emergency plans for the safest shelter-in-place locations and prepare before an emergency to ensure workers know where to go and how to keep themselves safe in the event of a disaster.”
OSHA’s Hazard Alert Letter recommends three areas for improvement at the Edwardsville warehouse:
- Ensure that all employees are provided training and participate in emergency weather drills.
- Include site-specific information in severe weather emergency plans.
- All audible warning devices and locations of the device should be clearly identified in the severe weather emergency plan and readily accessible.
Five of the deceased and the injured worker were independent direct service provider delivery contractors that took shelter in a bathroom on the warehouse’s south side, near the loading docks. Two worked for AB&C D.A.D Inc. of Belleville, one for Boxify Logistics of St. Louis. XSeed Delivery of Bolingbrook employed two of the other deceased workers and the injured worker. The three direct service providers will also receive hazard alert letters from OSHA encouraging them to review severe weather procedures for their drivers. The sixth worker fatally injured was employed by CBRE of Seattle as an in-house contractor assigned to the Edwardsville facility.