Amazon is an internet retailer that prides itself on customer service and has a reputation of excellence. Personally, I do a lot of shopping on Amazon and I'm always amazed and impressed by the high degree of service I receive, the quality of the products they sell and how fast they get the merchandise to my door.
All of this service, however, comes with a price. According to employees at their fulfillment centers, the company's relentless drive to increase productivity causes them to burn out, wears them down and eventually cost them their jobs.
More that 15,000 Amazon employees work in their warehouses, called "Fulfillment centers", and the number is growing, 17 more centers opened last year. In the warehouse, Amazon offers benefits that most other companies don't. They provide their full-time employees with stock shares after two years on the job, 401K and health insurance.
As you would expect from a company that tracks and analyzes the shopping habits of their customers so closely, they also track the safety and efficiency of each of their workers. Because of their strong attention to detail and numbers, Amazon's safety record is one of the best in the business. According to Amazon, their safety record beats auto manufacturing, the warehouse industry as a whole and even department stores.
That being said, a federal lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania and interviews with workers in Kentucky show a different picture. Amazon settled the lawsuit in July, but according to one warehouse worker, he was told not to tell emergency workers that his injury was work related, even though it was. In addition the indoor temperatures inside the warehouse were so high that Amazon had ambulances parked outside the building to take employees to the hospital.
Workers in Kentucky allege that Amazon put pressure on them to treat their injuries in ways that would not have to be reported to OSHA. One employee had stress fractures in both of her feet from walking miles on the concrete floors, but Amazon disputed the charge that the employees condition was work-related.
It might just sound like a few disgruntled employees, but even a former warehouse safety official stated that their medical staff were asked to treat wounds whenever possible, rather than send employees to a doctor for stitches. He also claimed that Amazon managers would often call doctors and argue with them about the employee's care.
However, a physician who has treated many Amazon employees said that the company never tried to dictate patient care, but there was one time that a manager question why he decided to treat an employee in a manner that caused the incident to be reportable to OSHA rather than using some other treatment method. In that particular case, the doctor opted to give the patient a shot of anti-inflammatory rather than a course of oral anti-inflammatory pills. To the medical professional, the injection has the benefit of making the patient get better faster. To the employer, the injection means they have much more paperwork to do.
Although the company has agreed to install air conditioners in their warehouses, the company stands behind their safety record and doesn't apologize for their focus on efficiency and speed. It remains to be seen what will happen with the warehouse employees at Amazon, but hopefully, the company will stand behind their employees and provide them with the best working environment as well as providing customers with the best shopping experience.