According to reports from The Washington Post and the Strategic Organizing Center, Amazon’s serious injury rate at its warehouses was nearly twice as high as the rest of the industry in 2020, based on newly released Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) data (a collection of unions that represent over 4 million workers around the country).
According to both groups’ analyses of OSHA data, which spans 2017 to 2020, Amazon workers suffered 5.9 “serious” injuries per 200,000 hours worked — defined as incidents in which workers received time off or a change in work responsibilities while recovering (a metric that encompasses 100 workers working full time for the year).
This compares to 3.3 injuries in the rest of the warehousing industry for the same metric. Walmart, one of Amazon’s largest retail competitors, had a rate of 2.5 serious injuries per 200,000 hours, which was more than half the rate of serious injury experienced by Amazon.
On the one hand, the new data represents an improvement from 2019, when a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that Amazon had an overall rate of 7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees, according to Reveal. And this is despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause a surge in overall Amazon shipping in 2020, a potentially promising trend to watch.
In fact, while the 5.9 serious injuries per 100 employee rate is still nearly twice as high as the rest of the industry, it is Amazon’s best year in a long time, given that The Washington Post and Reveal reported that the company had significantly higher overall injury rates in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement, “while any incident is one too many, we are constantly learning and seeing improvements through ergonomics programs, guided exercises at employees’ workstations, mechanical assistance equipment, workstation setup and design, and forklift telematics and guardrails, to name a few.” Nantel also mentioned that Amazon spent over $1 billion last year on new safety measures, as well as expanding its health and safety team.
However, even with the lowest serious injury rate in years, Amazon’s warehouses still have a significantly higher injury rate than the rest of the industry. According to one Amazon employee, the company set “unrealistic expectations” in pushing workers to meet productivity rates.
Amazon challenged Reveal’s original report last fall, claiming that the interpretation of OSHA data used to classify a “serious” injury — which, in the various reports here, is defined as those requiring time off or work reassignments — is skewed by what the company claims is more generous recovery time.