Injuries at Amazon warehouses accounted for nearly half of all warehouse injuries in the United States in 2021 and increased by about 20% from 2020, according to a new analysis of federal warehouse safety data from pro-union research group the Strategic Organizing Center.
The SOC report found that about 6.8 serious injuries occurred for every 100 Amazon warehouse workers in 2021, compared to 3.3 for every 100 people in other warehouses, based on Amazon's injury reports to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The nearly 40,000 reported injuries accounted for about 49% of all warehouse injuries in the U.S. according to the analysis, though Amazon only employs about 33% of all warehouse workers. 34,001 injuries were classified as serious, meaning that workers were either shifted to light duty (couldn't perform their usual tasks) or missed time from work completely.
While Amazon's injury rates are much higher than other warehouse companies, serious injury rates have declined dramatically in 2020 and 2021 within the company itself; while overall injuries have gone up, the rate of workers who lost time from injuries has declined from five-plus from 2017-2019 to less than three in 2020 and 2021.
Last year's injuries are part of a years-long pattern, as Amazon warehouse injury rates have hovered at more than double the national average since 2017. A previous 2021 SOC report about working conditions from 2017-2020 showed that Amazon's serious injury rate was almost more than double that of Walmart's, one of the company's primary competitors and the only private employer larger than Amazon.
"Like other companies in the industry, we saw an increase in recordable injuries during this time from 2020 to 2021 as we trained so many new people – however, when you compare 2021 to 2019, our recordable injury rate declined more than 13% year over year. While we still have more work to do and won’t be satisfied until we are excellent when it comes to safety, we continue to make measurable improvements in reducing injuries and keeping employees safe," Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, wrote in a statement to Protocol.
A report from Amazon released in January 2022 claims that, based on the company's internal data, warehouses are getting safer for workers. "We are seeing improvements in our key safety indicators — for example, Amazon’s worldwide Lost Time Incident Rate (LTIR), a measure of the number of injuries, per 100 employees, that resulted in missed work — reduced from 4.0 in 2019 to 2.3 in 2020, a 43% improvement," the company wrote in the report.
The safety conditions inside Amazon warehouses have prompted state and federal lawmakers to launch investigations and propose a range of bills aimed at reining in the company's notoriously grueling productivity expectations. After a tornado killed six Amazon workers when a facility collapsed in Edwardsville, Illinois, in December 2021, House Democrats launched inquiries into Amazon's natural disaster safety procedures as well. Workers at a Staten Island facility voted to unionize for the first time in Amazon's history on April 1, and union organizers used injury rates and productivity expectations as central pillars of their pro-union campaign.
Amazon did not immediately respond to request for comment.