Labor Department issues fines following Amazon fulfillment center death

amazon-fullThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration has levied fines against five companies in the case of Ronald Smith, a contract worker who died from injuries sustained at an Amazon fulfillment center in Avenel, New Jersey. Smith was injured when he was “caught in between a conveyor system and crushed” when he was sorting items at the warehouse. 

Amazon was not cited. Genco, the third-party logistics provider Amazon contracted with to oversee work at the site, as well as four staffing agencies, were all cited for violations, and ordered to pay a $6,000 fine.

“It is essential that employers protect all workers from job hazards — both temporary and permanent workers,” Patricia Jones, the director of OSHA’s Avenel area office, said in a statement. 

OSHA is still investigating the death of Jody Rhoads, who died from injuries sustained at an Amazon warehouse in Pennsylvania earlier this month. The exact timeline of what happened in the case is still unclear, but a report from the Associated Press said that Rhoads was pinned by a motorized pallet jack she was operating when it crashed into a shelving unit.

All of this comes at a time when Amazon continues to expand its operations at a rapid pace. Last quarter, the company added 7,000 new jobs to its global workforce, and continues to grow at a rapid clip in order to keep up with demand.

Amazon has come under fire for its labor practices with increasing regularity in recent years. A number of negative stories about working in the company’s fulfillment centers have surfaced, highlighting a significant focus on speed and efficiency. Amazon has vehemently asserted that it works to ensure the safety of its workers in light of those stories, but it’s unclear how these accidents will affect Amazon’s policies, if at all.

Update: An Amazon spokesperson provided GeekWire with the following statement via email: “Any accident that occurs in a facility is one too many and we take these matters seriously.”

  • Guest

    According to OSHA, “Genco was cited for one serious violation …. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.”

    All five companies involved were fined a total of $6,000. That doesn’t sound serious at all. It’s probably not enough to even pay for the investigation. If the regulators are so lacking in teeth, even in a case where a worker is killed on the job as the result of a “serious” violation, what is the point of even having them at all.

    The threat of a $6,000 fine isn’t going to convince any company of any reasonable size to change their behavior.