Tumwater, WA – The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) recently announced that Amazon is facing $85,800 in fines for knowingly putting workers at risk of injury at its fulfillment center in Spokane. This is the latest in a line of enforcement cases involving the e-commerce company both in Washington state and nationwide.
A Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) inspection of the e-commerce company found that Amazon requires workers to execute repetitive motions, lifting, and other physical work at such a fast pace that it puts workers at risk for developing Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs).
Because L&I has cited Amazon for similar violations at three other Washington locations, the company is aware of these hazards. That’s why the most recent violation is considered willful and carries a higher penalty.
“Perhaps more than any other company, Amazon has the means and the know-how to invest in solutions that keep their workers safe,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
Spokane center tops injury rates
Amazon’s Spokane fulfillment center employs about 2,400 workers. In the three years it’s been in operation, there have been more than 400 workers’ compensation claims for the type of injury known as Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders. It has the highest injury rates for all Amazon fulfillment centers in the state.
In addition to the ergonomic violations, the Spokane facility was also cited for three serious and one general violation for noise levels that were too high when workers are not wearing appropriate hearing protection.
New guidelines for warehouse workers quotas
In an effort to reduce warehouse worker injuries, effective July 1, 2024, Washington state law will require large distribution centers to disclose any production quotas workers are expected to meet. The law also requires quotas to factor in time for rest and meal breaks, time to use the restroom, and time to access tools and safety equipment needed to perform the job.
A series of injury reporting and ergonomic violations at Amazon warehouses across the country led to multiple citations last year from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. California, New York, and Minnesota also passed warehouse worker protection bills, and similar legislation is pending in 12 other states.
Appealing the citation
Amazon has 15 business days to appeal the citation and has active appeals in the three previous Washington cases.
Fines paid as a result of a citation go into the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.
Source: WA L&I