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Could Work Injury Rates in Amazon Warehouses in Illinois be Dramatically Higher when Robots are Utilized?

According to Amazon, the introduction of robots and other AI devices was supposed to make things easier and safer for the human workers in the mega-corporation’s warehouses. In fact, Amazon still asserts that exact same thing. The statistics, though, don’t seem to mesh with that conclusion, as they point to much higher injury rates at warehouses with robots as opposed to those without robots. What we can definitely deduce from these statistics is that, at these warehouses with robots, injuries are occurring at a very high reported rate that greatly exceeds the industry average. If you’ve been hurt in a workplace accident – at your Amazon warehouse job or elsewhere – be sure to reach out without delay to an experienced Chicago workplace injury attorney to discuss your case and find out your legal options.

Back in 2019, Amazon’s CEO of consumer business told PBS that robots “make the job safer.” The Center of Investigative Journalism did an in-depth analysis of the accidents reported at Amazon’s warehouses across the country and it found that those accident reports told a much different story.

The Center, on its RevealNews.com website, revealed that Amazon’s accident reports showed that, at Amazon warehouses that ship small- to medium-sized packages, “the rate of serious injuries from 2016 to 2019 was more than 50% higher at warehouses with robots than ones without. Even when faced with those numbers, Amazon continued to stress that robots made “jobs safer and more efficient.”

The problem may be that Amazon’s focus is more on “more efficient” rather than “safer.” The robots, according to the report, were so efficient that Amazon throttled up its demands on the human workers. Workers who previously were expected to obtain and scan roughly 100 pieces per hour, and sometimes to walk miles throughout the workday as they grabbed the packages they needed, found new expectations after the company introduced the robots. Workers who previously had to grab and scan 100 items per hour were now “expected to hit rates of up to 400 an hour,” RevealNews.com reported.

What happened, as a result, was that the job became more prone to causing injuries to those human warehouse workers. Workers who previously walked miles throughout a warehouse were now standing in one place for up to 10 hours per day four days per week, engaged in the constant repetitive actions of grabbing and scanning, according to the report.

According to a doctor who inspected Amazon warehouses for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), this increase in injuries was all tied to the introduction of the robots. If the job at robot-involved warehouses forces workers to perform the same motions over and over at a rapid pace without sufficient breaks, then those repetitive motions don’t “allow muscles to rest,” which can lead to injuries. Additionally, the mentally grinding process of standing in one spot, in relative isolation, for 10 hours just grabbing and scanning over and over can enhance the risks of mental fatigue and distraction, and these things can also increase the frequency of injuries.

In fact, at one Amazon warehouse in DuPont, Wash. that uses robots, the facility logged 22 serious injuries per 100 workers, according to the report. That number is five times greater than the current industry average, according to the report.

Here in Illinois, Amazon warehouse workers also face high risks of injury. At the Monee facility, 40 workers suffered severe injuries in 2018, and 25 were injured just during the holiday “peak” season, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Amazon is, of course, an extremely large company with a huge amount of assets. Any time you have to take on a large, well-funded opponent, it is important to be sure you have the best legal representation on your side. The Chicago workplace injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca are here to provide just that. Our experienced attorneys have many years of successfully litigating cases on behalf of injured Amazon workers and people working for other companies. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

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