Death of NJ Amazon warehouse worker spurs OSHA investigation

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Around 8 a.m. on July 13, emergency medical services responded to a 911 call to Amazon’s EWR9 fulfillment center at 8003 Industrial Highway in Carteret.

It was in the midst of the Prime Day rush, traditionally Amazon’s busiest sales week of the year. Medical services transported a male worker to hospital, Carteret officials confirmed.

But the worker did not survive.

His death was confirmed by representatives from Amazon and the US Department of Labor. The worker has still not been officially identified and the cause of death remains undetermined. But the death sparked a federal investigation, outcry from warehouse workers and calls for further scrutiny by Democratic U.S. Representative Donald Norcross of New Jersey.

“People need to be confident that when they go to work they will be safe and will return home as they came in,” Norcross wrote in a July 20 public statement. “Amazon is breaking that fundamental promise.”

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of one of our colleagues and extend our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time,” Amazon spokesman Sam Stephenson wrote in response to inquiries. .

After:Amazon worker at Carteret warehouse dies during Prime Day sale

But that wouldn’t be the only fatality at an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey next month.

Two other workers at Amazon’s facilities in central Jersey have since died, confirmed Leni Fortson, director of public affairs at the US Department of Labor’s Philadelphia office. This represents three deaths, in three establishments, in just over three weeks. All are being investigated by the department’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Fortson said.

Eleven days after Carteret’s death, on July 24, an incident involving a worker at the PNE5 Amazon facility at 18 Applegate Drive in Robbinsville occurred. He died three days later, on July 27, Fortson confirmed.

The following week, on August 4 in nearby Monroe Township, another employee died at the DEY6 delivery station at 6 Farrington Blvd. in Monroe, she said.

Fortson declined to release further details, including the names of the workers, citing open OSHA investigations. In response to each death, Amazon released a statement saying it was “deeply saddened”. and said it provides employee counseling services.

“As is standard protocol, we are conducting an internal investigation and cooperating with OSHA, which is also conducting its own independent review,” Amazon spokesperson Stephenson wrote.

The results of each OSHA investigation may not be publicly announced for six months, Fortson said.

Carteret warehouse workers told NBC News anonymously that they were concerned about the lack of information surrounding the death and that the deceased worker often operated on an upper floor of the Carteret warehouse known for its high temperatures. In that same report, Amazon representative Sam Stephenson disputed that the death was work-related and attributed the death to a “personal medical condition.”

In addition to the deaths in New Jersey, a 22-year-old employee at an Amazon factory outside Carlisle, Pennsylvania, died Aug. 6 after a crash days earlier between two industrial trucks, reported The Patriot-News of Harrisburg.

Heightened Worker Safety Oversight at Amazon Warehouses

The worker deaths came as organizing efforts and scrutiny of Amazon’s safety practices intensify in New Jersey and across the country.

In April, a Staten Island warehouse became the first Amazon site in the country to vote to unionize, in an effort led by a former worker named Chris Smalls who alleged poor safety conditions. Also in April, workers at an Amazon factory in Bayonne, New Jersey qualified to hold a union vote but withdrew their petition.

After:Who is Chris Smalls? What to know about Amazon’s labor organizer

On May 25, eight US representatives from New Jersey, including Norcross, signed a letter asking OSHA to investigate the “skyrocketing” injuries at Amazon. The letter cited a 54% increase in worker injuries at Amazon facilities in New Jersey between 2020 and 2021.

“While Amazon employed 33% of all warehouse workers in the United States in 2021, 49% of all warehouse worker injuries were Amazon workers,” the letter read. “Alarmingly, the reported serious injury rate was more than double the rate for non-Amazon warehouses in 2021…Despite Jeff Bezos’ pledges to make Amazon the ‘Safest Workplace on Earth,’ reports suggest conditions for Amazon workers are deteriorating and not up to industry standards.”

After New Jersey’s first death in Carteret, Norcross revisited the requests for this letter.

“I renew my call for OSHA to fully investigate Amazon,” he wrote in his July 20 statement. “Lives depend on it.”

Matthew Korfhage is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network’s Atlantic Region How We Live team. Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @matthewkorfhage

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