Business Tech

Amazon warehouse robots up staff injuries

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An investigation revealed that Amazon’s use of robots in its warehouses has led to more injuries for human workers.

The Center for Investigative Reporting said it had acquired internal records for 150 warehouses over four years and at an Amazon fulfillment center with robots; serious injuries are about 50 percent higher for those without.

The report even claimed that last year alone, there were 14,000 serious injuries – requiring days off or job restrictions – and the overall injury rate was almost double the industry standard.

However, Amazon refuted the claims and said that the numbers of the report were high and false because it reported the number of even minor incidents.

Amazon strongly said that the injury rate as per the report used by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration was not a metric for any serious injury in the industry.

The report accuses the giant online retailer Amazon of weird misrepresentations the company has deployed to hide its growing safety crisis.

The report claimed that Amazon officials had strongly misled the public and lawmakers over its safety record.

The company backfired and said, “We strongly refute the claims that we’ve misled anyone. The report is misinterpreting data, and the very internal documents ultimately illustrate one thing – we have a deep focus on the safety of our teams.”

But workers of the company revealed that the robots ferrying items through the warehouse meant they were now confined to workstations, standing still and repeating monotonous tasks.

The workers also said that the robots were much more efficient leading to productivity expectations for human workers increasing too. Pickers at the warehouse said that they had seen their expected number of items to handle grow from 100 to 400 per hour.

The report also says Amazon’s public statements are misleading, based on its discoveries and Amazon fiercely denied the claims.

The company said that improving safety is a key part of the robot’s purpose, alongside improving efficiency.

Amazon had first introduced robots into its warehouses after acquiring a robotics manufacturer in 2012.

Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s chief executive of consumer business, had remarked in 2019 that robotics had an amazing beneficial impact on safety.

Amazon has faced many battles over how it treats its employees. In the UK, the GMB union alleged that hundreds of Amazon workers had suffered serious injuries or narrowly avoided an accident. Market reports reveal that the number of injuries reported in the UK have increased in recent years – but so have the number of warehouses. Workers have staged strikes over the Prime Day workload and, more recently, on coronavirus safety measures.

But the company said it has spent some USD 55m on safety improvements in its warehouses over the past two years. It further remarked, “We continue to see improvements in injury prevention and reduction through programs focused on improved ergonomics.” Amazon even said that it was constantly learning, and improving its safety procedures.

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