Amazon has pledged new health protections for its workers in fulfillment centers in the US and Europe, as first reported by Reuters. Under the new system, workers will receive a no-contact temperature check on arrival, and anyone who tests over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) will be sent home. Workers will also receive surgical masks for use while on the premises. The protections are planned to be in place by next week.
The Verge can confirm that warehouse workers from at least two sites have been informed of the new protections, some as early as Tuesday.
Amazon also plans to monitor on-site video feeds using software algorithms to ensure workers are appropriately distanced in the workplace, addressing previous concerns about overcrowding.
Amazon’s fulfillment teams have grown increasingly concerned about the lack of health protections at warehouse sites, which many believe is putting them at risk amid an unprecedented surge in demand. At one Detroit warehouse, management failed to notify employees when a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19 and was slow to respond when a second employee also tested positive.
Amazon has seen a series of escalating labor actions in response to those failures. Workers in Staten Island and Chicago have staged walkouts to demand better health protections, and workers in Detroit were preparing for a similar action on Monday. Amazon did not respond when asked if the new measures were a response to those labor actions.
The new protections will also extend to the Whole Foods grocery chain, which Amazon acquired in 2017. Whole Foods workers had staged a walkout on Monday over similar concerns, also facing unprecedented supply chain disruption and grocery demand.
The new measures do not entirely protect workers from contracting COVID-19 at work, given the prevalence of asymptomatic transmission and the global shortage of more comprehensive protective equipment, like N95 masks. But in the absence of widely available testing, these new policies represent a significant improvement over previous conditions.
Josh Dzieza contributed additional reporting.