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Workers in Minnesota at risk in fulfillment warehouses

Under the wrong circumstances, any workplace can be hazardous for the people who work there. The health care and construction industries are notorious for workplace injuries and large numbers of workers' compensation claims. Recently, however, online order fulfillment centers, like the Amazon warehouse facility in Shakopee, have also come under greater scrutiny from regulators and watchdog organizations.

Amazon, in particular, has drawn criticism from advocates of worker safety like the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. To mark Workers' Memorial Week - which honors workers who died, suffered from illness or were injured while on the job - National COSH publishes an annual "Dirty Dozen" list. Included on the list are companies with repeated health or safety violations and/or whose workers were victims of severe, preventable injuries.

This year, Amazon is among the Dirty Dozen because seven workers were killed at its warehouses between 2013 and 2017. According to the National COSH report, Amazon's warehouse fulfillment centers exhibit "a disturbing pattern of preventable deaths." In 2017, three people were killed over a span of five weeks at three different Amazon warehouse locations. The report attributes the deaths to the pressures Amazon exerts on its workers.

Workers are expected to move at a pace described as "relentless" and are subject to constant monitoring of productivity. Amazon allegedly is considering biometric wrist bands that will allow workers to be tracked and "buzzed" if efficiency is compromised. At busy times, like the holidays, employees often do not feel they can even take bathroom breaks. Workers who have suffered an injury while on the job at a warehouse fulfillment center - Amazon or otherwise - may need to get more information about their legal rights.

Source: National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, "The Dirty Dozen 2018: Employers who put workers and communities at risk," accessed April 23, 2018.

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