Automation is supposed to make things easier for workers, but it could be putting many at risk. Injury rates at Amazon warehouses have actually gone up after the company introduced robots into the mix. This is despite the company’s claims that automation would actually reduce the number of workplace injuries.
According to a report from Reveal for the Center for Investigative Reporting, workers in Amazon warehouses with robots are more likely to be injured than those who work at warehouses without any automation. Part of the problem seems to be linked to workplace quotas. When robots were introduced into their warehouses, workers who had only been required to retrieve and scan 100 items an hour had their quotas increased to 400.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration — OSHA — had recommended that Amazon take specific measures to limit the risk of injury for workers in automated warehouses. These measures included things like rotating workers between different duties and providing extra breaks. That same report shows that Amazon might have made a small effort, but did not widely implement these measures.
The impact of automation and Amazon’s lack of safety precautions is clear. In 2019 alone, Amazon reported at least 14,000 warehouse worker injuries that were serious enough to require job restrictions or time off work. This injury rate is 33% higher than it was in 2016, and is double the industry standard.
New Jersey workers deserve to be treated as if their health and safety is valued. When employers overlook their well-being and they are injured as a result, these men and women need access to benefits for things like lost wages and medical bills. In New Jersey, getting help for workplace injuries is most often accomplished through the workers’ compensation system.