Amazon’s serious injury rate at its warehouses was nearly twice as high as the rest of the industry in 2020, newly released Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) data shows in reports from both The Washington Post and the Strategic Organizing Center (a collection of unions that represent over 4 million workers around the country).
According to both groups’ analyses of the OSHA data, which spans 2017 through 2020, Amazon workers suffered 5.9 “serious” injuries — defined as incidents where workers received time off or a change in work responsibilities while recovering — per 200,000 hours worked (a metric that encompasses 100 workers working full time for the year). That’s compared to 3.3 injuries for that same metric across the rest of the warehousing industry. Walmart, one of Amazon’s largest retail competitors, had a rate of 2.5 serious injuries per 200,000 hours, more than half of Amazon’s rate of serious injury.
On the one hand, the new data represents an improvement from 2019, when a report from Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting showed that Amazon had an overall rate of 7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees. And that lower rate is despite the surge in overall Amazon shipping in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a potentially promising trend to see. In fact, the 5.9 serious injuries per 100 employee rate — while still nearly twice as high as the rest of the industry — is actually Amazon’s best year in some time, considering that The Washington Post and Reveal noted that the company had markedly higher overall injury rates in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel commented that “while any incident is one too many, we are continuously learning and seeing improvements through ergonomics programs, guided exercises at employees’ workstations, mechanical assistance equipment, workstation setup and design, and forklift telematics and guardrails—to name a few.” Nantel also noted that Amazon invested over $1 billion in new safety measures last year, while expanding its health and safety team.
But it’s particularly telling that even at its lowest serious injury rate in years, Amazon’s warehouses still have a dramatically higher injury rate than the rest of the industry. As one Amazon worker complained to The Washington Post, the company set “unrealistic expectations” in pushing workers to meet productivity rates.
Last fall, Amazon contested the original report from Reveal, arguing that the interpretation of the OSHA data used to classify a “serious” injury — which, in the various reports here, is defined as those that require time off or work reassignments — is skewed by what the company claims is more generous recovery time.