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Amazon warehouse work environment improved with air conditioning

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Amazon has invested $52 million to retrofit older warehouses with air conditioning units in response to last year's investigation of poor work conditions.

Amazon box (STOCK)
Amazon box (STOCK)

Despite continued reports of grueling working conditions in Amazon's warehouses, the situation has been somewhat improved by the company's $52 million investment to retrofit older warehouses with air conditioning units. Amazon made the decision to install temporary air conditioning units in the Breinigsville, PA warehouse after The Morning Call reported that the warehouse heat index topped 110 degrees in the summer, and workers suffered heat-related injuries. Since, the company has replaced the temporary system in the Breinigsville warehouse with forty permanent roof-mounted air conditioning units, and added cooling systems to older warehouses countrywide.

After several heat related injuries in May of last year, Amazon began paying to have ambulances stationed in its parking lot on hot days. In June, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an inspection of the facilities after getting complaints from doctors and employees. One complaint stated that 15 employees collapsed while working when the heat index rose above 100 degrees.

The Morning Call followed the story after their initial report, and found that Amazon applied for permits to install temporary air conditioning after complaints were filed with federal regulators. The temporary system was removed in November, and in March a contractor applied for permits to install permanent cooling systems. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos then announced at the end of May that Amazon will retrofit all fulfillment centers with air conditioning.

All new warehouses have air conditioning installed, but analysts like Forrester Research's Sucharita Mulpuru think the decision was likely made to protect food and electronic products, not workers. "I would like to think there was an element of humanity to the decision but there's nothing in Amazon's history or in Jeff Bezos' public persona that would lead me to think that was the driver of the decision. … Rarely has Amazon made any business decisions that didn't affect the bottom line."