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Warehouse Workers, Internet Retailers, and Problematic Safety Records

More and more Americans are embracing online shopping. But few people probably pause to think about working conditions in the warehouses from which the products they buy are shipped.

Workers' compensation attorneys and government regulators are concerned, however, about the safety records of Amazon and other Internet retailers.

Overall, the frequency of workplace injury is high in the industry.

Last year, Amazon settled a lawsuit brought by a warehouse worker who asserted that a safety official for the company told him to tell emergency responders that an injury to his hip was not related to work - even though the warehouse worker believed it was.

The worker's injury was later reported after the Allentown Morning Call investigated Amazon's warehouse operations in Pennsylvania.

The investigation found that temperatures inside the Amazon warehouse were so high that the company positioned ambulances outside to facilitate taking workers to the hospital.

Three former Amazon warehouse workers from Kentucky reported similar experiences. They told of pressure from the company to respond to injuries in ways that would not require the injuries to be reported to federal safety regulators.

Workplace injuries must normally be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The former Kentucky employees said, however, that Amazon tried to get them to "manage" injuries by ascribing the injuries pre-existing conditions or taking other potentially misleading steps.

One of the Kentucky workers said, for example, that she suffered stress fractures in her feet from constantly walking on the hard concrete floors of the warehouse. Amazon claimed the fractures were not work-related.

Source: "Amazon.com warehouse workers fired if goals aren't met," Seattle Times, 4-3-12

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