Of all types of businesses, online merchants thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon was already leading the pack and continued to rake in unprecedented profits. However, that success may have come at the expense of their hard-working warehouse employees.
In 2020, Amazon launched a $1 billion initiative called “WorkingWell” to educate employees on avoiding on-the-job injuries. Based upon the latest data, the cutting-edge program combined with more than a 6,000-member workplace health and safety team did not work as well as Amazon wanted as their employees suffered injuries at higher rates than the e-commerce giant’s competitors.
Countless worker injuries
Last year saw 6.5 injuries in warehouses for every 100 Amazon workers, a majority that was serious and resulted in lost time or placement on light or restricted tasks. According to the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) data, work-related accidents nearly doubled those that occurred at non-Amazon facilities from 2017 to 2020.
Amazon was already under pressure for employee working conditions prior to and during the worldwide health crisis. With Jeff Bezos’ admission that his company needs to “do a better job,” Amazon set a goal to reduce worker injuries by 50 percent by 2025 and invested another $300 million in safety-related projects.
Admitting culpability combined with throwing money at the problem ignores what many see as the root cause of the accident. Amazon’s productivity quotas mandate that workers pick, pack, and stow a set amount of items every hour. A temporary pause in that mandate allowed workers time to wash and sanitize their hands.
It also saw a reduction in employee injuries.