Rhode Island residents may be aware that the online retail giant Amazon has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration several times in recent years because of unsafe working conditions in its warehouses. Amazon is America’s second largest employer and employs about 39% of the nation’s warehouse workers, and the results of a recent study suggest that most of them take unpaid time off each month because their jobs cause exhaustion or pain.
The study was based on the responses to an online survey submitted between April and August by 1,484 Amazon warehouse workers in 42 states. It was published on Oct. 25 by researchers from the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois. More than two-thirds of the respondents said that they took time off without pay during the preceding 30 days to recover from job-related pain or exhaustion, and more than a third of them said that they took three or more days off.
An Amazon representative responded to the study by dismissing the findings of an online survey completed on social media platforms, and she implied that the respondents were likely exaggerating and may have axes to grind. She also said that Amazon is working diligently to improve conditions in its warehouses and is committed to worker safety. Most of the respondents acknowledged that the online retailer was trying to improve working conditions, but they also said workplace injuries are common because speed and efficiency are prioritized over safety. More than four in 10 of the respondents reported being injured while on the job, but the study did not reveal if they filed workers’ compensation claims.
Balancing safety and profits
Compiling online survey responses may not be the most rigorous form of research, but it is still worrying that so many Amazon warehouse employees reported work-related exhaustion or pain. It is also concerning that experienced Amazon workers were more likely to feel burned out and reported more job-related injuries than new hires.