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Amazon pushes employees to work through injuries, illness

Readers in North Carolina know that Amazon has gained a tremendous reputation for selling books, and many other consumer goods, to customers from the comfort of their homes. The online retail giant is known for is speedy turn-around times between orders and delivery. However, that efficiency is coming at a cost: worker health and safety.

According to recent reports, Amazon management has encouraged warehouse employees to continue working despite workplace injuries or dangerous work site conditions in the interest of efficiency and increasing profits. Now, former employees have come forward and have told reporters about the difficult working conditions in Amazon's distribution warehouses.

Those interviewed indicated that workers were pressured to "manage" their injuries in order to stay productive and avoid reporting injuries to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. In other cases, they were asked to deal with work-related accidents in a way that would not contribute to federal injury reports.

In other cases, warehouses have not been outfitted with air conditioning, so building temperatures soar to 100 degrees or more during the summer. This has caused many workers to suffer heat exhaustion. Amazon management's answer to this problem was to bring beverages to the workers so they wouldn't have to leave their post to take breaks.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this case is that workers felt that they could not bring up the subject of the unsafe conditions and practices to management. One worker commented that it was not entirely out of the question to approach superiors with these concerns. At the same time, employees are constantly monitored and tracked to ensure efficiency.

Unfortunately, Amazon has created a culture in which efficiency and profits trump the welfare of employees. Not only does the Internet retailer insist on creating an unsafe climate for warehouse workers, but workers feel intimidated to take a stand to protect their own health.

No employee should feel pressured to work at a capacity or in an environment where their health is routinely put in jeopardy. Hopefully the brave employees who have decided to come forward will inspire other workers to seek the benefits they are owed and demand better working conditions.

Source: The Lexington Herald-Leader, "Kentucky News Review: Amazon warehouse in Campbellsville takes heavy toll on workers," Lu-Ann Farrar, April 5, 2012

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