Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist*

Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist*

Robots cause increased injuries at Amazon warehouses

Shopping from home has exploded this year with increased activity at Amazon warehouses or fulfillment centers. A recent report claimed that Amazon has a growing problem with injuries at its warehouses which, according to the report, has been downplayed. This information indicates the need for injured workers to understand their workers’ compensation rights.

What does the data say?

A whistleblower provided injury data from Amazon fulfillment centers to the Center of Investigative Journalism outlet, Reveal. It contained data on the number of weekly injuries at 150 Amazon warehouses in this country from 2016 to 2019. A serious injury was defined as one requiring time off from work or changes to the job.

Amazon recorded 14,000 serious injuries at 150 warehouses in 2019. This was 33 percent higher than its injury rate in 2016 and almost double the industry standard. Amazon injury rates per 100 workers rose annually since 2016.

Injury rates were also higher on average in facilities that had operating robots, according to the data. Amazon warehouses processing small to medium-sized items had injury rates that were 50 percent higher when they were equipped with robots from 2016 to 2019. Injuries also surged during the busy season before Christmas and during the company’s Prime Day and Cyber Monday shopping events.

Amazon’s response

An Amazon spokesperson denied claims that it misled the public and said the report’s metric was based on a skewed interpretation of data on serious injuries. Last year, Amazon’s CEO of consumer business said that robots made work safer.

Reveal’s investigation, however, indicates that robots raised worker production quotas which increases strains and injury rates. One worker said that the introduction of robots increased their quotas from 100 items per hour to 400.

Last year, Amazon also claimed that recordable incidents do not increase during peak holiday work. According to Reveal data, however, Amazon’s highest injury rates for 2019 occurred during the Prime Day and Cyber Monday weeks.

Workers’ compensation may be complicated and require injury investigations. An attorney can help assure that injured workers can pursue their rights to benefits.