A new report alleges that employees at Amazon's mega-warehouse on Staten Island suffer from injuries at a rate that far outpaces the national average, fueling calls for increased worker protections heading into the punishing holiday season.
Since its opening last September, the sprawling fulfillment center, called JFK8, has been the subject of numerous safety complaints from its more than 2000-person work force. Mirroring concerns raised by Amazon workers across the country, the Staten Island "pickers" say they've been worked to the point of exhaustion and injury, forced to package hundreds of items hourly in rooms with no air conditioning and minimal break time.
Now, new internal figures submitted by Amazon to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—and obtained by Make the Road and New York Communities for Change—show the scale of the hazards at JFK8.
As Gizmodo first reported, the warehouse scored a 15.2 on its OSHA Incident Rate, which compares the number of serious injuries to the number of total hours worked among all employees at a given worksite.
That figure is five times greater than the national average for all workers, and substantially more than rates found in other dangerous workplaces, such as coal mines and sawmills. The average OSHA Rate for general warehouse workers is 5.2, or roughly a third of the injury frequency at the Staten Island fulfillment center.
"We already knew that the facility had serious problems with injuries, but what we now know is Amazon is fully aware of these problems," Frank Kearl, a staff attorney at Make the Road who helped analyze the data, told Gothamist. "It points to a reckless, deliberate, and dangerous practice at JFK8."
The release marks the first time that Amazon's private OSHA reporting on injuries inside its controversial warehouses has been made public.
The figures also show a "shockingly high" number of severe injuries at JFK8, Kearl said. According to the report, workers whose injuries were logged by Amazon were each forced to miss an average of 64.04 days of employment.
Those dangerous are especially pronounced during the holidays, when employees are expected to meet grueling shipping schedules and barred from taking days off to rest. Between Thanksgiving and New Years in 2018, workers at JFK8 suffered 63 recordable injuries, 17 of which were so severe that the employees never returned to work.
A petition signed by 600 Amazon employees at the Staten Island facility calls for employees to get more break time during their shifts, as well as free MetroCards to get to and from work by bus. The petition will be presented to Amazon management on Monday night.
"We know this is a place where there are exceptionally high rates of injury," said Kearl. "The fact that the richest company in the world can't protect its workers, as it's legally required to under the law, shocks the conscience."
A spokesperson for Amazon did not respond to Gothamist's inquiries.
Additional reporting by Gwynne Hogan.
UPDATE: Following publication of this article, a spokesperson for Amazon provided a statement to Gothamist claiming that the "snapshot of injury recordings is misleading given the size of our workforce."
"Ensuring the safety of associates in our building is our number one priority and we invest heavily in safety," the statement continued. "There’s a dramatic level of under-recording of safety incidents across the industry—we recognized this in 2016 and began to take an aggressive stance on recording injuries no matter how big or small which can result in elevated recordable rates and makes comparisons difficult.”
The statement did not dispute any specific findings from the document, and the spokesperson did not respond to follow up inquiries.