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18th January 2022

SHAMEFUL’ FIGURES SHOW MORE THAN A THOUSAND SERIOUS INJURIES REPORTED AT AMAZON SITES 

‘SHAMEFUL’ FIGURES SHOW MORE THAN A THOUSAND SERIOUS INJURIES REPORTED AT AMAZON SITES 

There can now be no denying Amazon warehouses are dangerous, says GMB union after an investigation showed ambulance callouts surged 56 per cent during pandemic  

‘Shameful’ figures reveal more than a thousand serious injuries at Amazon sites have been reported to health and safety bodies since 2016, a GMB investigation has found.  

Disturbingly, the number of injuries reported to health and safety bodies is rapidly increasing.  

294 were reported in the financial year 2020/21 – up from 231 the year before, or an increase of 27%. This compared to 139 reports in 2016/17. [1] 

The true figure could be much higher, with not all local authorities having responded to the FOI survey. 

Amazon sites with the most reported injuries over the last 5 years include Coalville (95), Dunfermline (93), and Manchester Sunbank Lane (87).  Central Bedfordshire had the most reports of any local authority, with 135 reports of serious injuries. 

Local authority inspection reports obtained by GMB reveal multiple areas of concern, including: injuries to workers, unsafe working conditions, Covid-19 concerns, and poor health and safety record keeping or a lack of compliance with inspectors. [2] 

Separate new figures obtained by the union show that more than a thousand ambulance callouts were also made over the same period – and that callouts rose by 56% during the pandemic (between 2019/20 and 2020/21).  

Despite Amazon’s claim that ‘the vast majority of ambulance call outs to our buildings are related to pre-existing conditions,’ ambulance trusts reported multiple callouts for falls, traumatic injuries, and cases of Covid-19.  

At one ambulance trust in Yorkshire, specific traumatic injuries accounted for one in ten callouts. [3] 

Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: 

“More than a thousand serious injuries at Amazon sites is a shameful statistic and one that the company must address urgently – and the true picture is probably worse. 

“GMB investigations have now built up years’ worth of evidence and there can be no denying Amazon warehouse are currently dangerous, dehumanising places to work. 

“We will be writing to the Health and Safety Executive to set out our findings – it is time for a proper external audit and investigation of working conditions at this highly profitable company.  

“It’s time Amazon stopped burying its head in the sand, met with GMB and worked out how to make Amazon a great, safe place to work.”  
 
ENDS 
 
Media enquiries: GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at press.office@gmb.org.uk

Notes:

[1] Results for responding local authorities and ambulance trusts by year: 

Type 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21 TOTAL 
Local authority – RIDDOR reports 139 178 198 231 294  1,040  
Ambulance trust – callouts 153 187 164 219 342 1,065 

In both cases, some relevant authorities did not provide data and the true totals would likely be higher. Ambulance figures exclude responses from the South East Coast Ambulance Service, which provided data on callouts to the postcode area only. 
 
Employers should report serious work-related injuries under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). Injuries should be reported when they result in a worker being ‘being away from work, or unable to perform their normal work duties’ for seven consecutive days, or when they are a ‘specified injury,’ which includes: 

  • fractures, other than to fingers, thumbs and toes 
  • amputations 
  • any injury likely to lead to permanent loss of sight or reduction in sight 
  • any crush injury to the head or torso causing damage to the brain or internal organs 
  • serious burns (including scalding) which: 
  • covers more than 10% of the body 
  • causes significant damage to the eyes, respiratory system or other vital organs 
  • any scalping requiring hospital treatment 
  • any loss of consciousness caused by head injury or asphyxia 
  • any other injury arising from working in an enclosed space which: 
  • leads to hypothermia or heat-induced illness 
  • requires resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours 
https://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/reportable-incidents.htm

Incidents reportable under RIDDOR will not necessarily result in an ambulance callout, and ambulance callouts will not necessarily be for incidents captured under RIDDOR. 

[2] Examples of incidents or areas of concern by category, drawn from local authority reports, are described below: 

Injuries 

  • At Medway, in 2020 a worker was injured went a pallet collapsed, resulting in back and knee pain that left them unable to work for at least two weeks. 
  • At Dunfermline, in 2019 a worker suffered a ‘laceration’ after making contact with an exposed saw blade (due to the item not being correctly packaged). 
  • In Manchester, in mid-2018 a worker was left unable to work for more than seven days due to back pain incurred after lifting a parcel that weighed 26kg – a weight 73% heavier than an internal limit of 15kg. 
  • At a London site in mid-2018, a worker who was hit in the head by a falling tote bag ‘drifted in and out of consciousness while on the floor … [and] appeared to stop breathing for 15-20 seconds.’  
     
    The ‘main root cause of this incident’ was recorded as ‘failing to provide a safe working environment for a 3rd party operator within FC [Fulfilment Centre] due to sortation cage being overfilled and unfixed shelf manipulated in unsafe position.’ 

Working conditions 

  • At Coalville, in early 2021 a self-employed courier for Amazon described the work as ‘mentally and physically stressful and we have no time for breaks. We are delivering over 270 + parcels with 180 + stops daily.’ 
  • At Brent, a late 2020 inspection found a build-up of ‘black micro fungi’ in water tanks that provided drinking water (including to staff drinking fountains). 
  • When Amazon’s Dundee warehouse opened in 2016/17, agency workers were working at a temperature of just 3.2°C during the day – falling to sub-zero temperatures at night.  
     
    The HSE advises that warehouses should have an ambient temperature of at least 13°C. The law says that temperatures must be at a ‘reasonable’ level, but the HSE advises that ‘if the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.’ http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/law.htm  

Covid-19 

  • At Kegworth in the East Midlands, a complaint was made in November 2020 of ‘daily incidences of not complying with Covid19 regulations re social distancing etc.’ A separate complaint was made from the same site in January 2021 of ‘flouting of rules, employees not being protected, no screen around work stations, working in an unsafe environment.’ 
  • At Sunderland, a third party driver complained that when they had raised concerns about Covid-19 protections and said ‘the potential to become exposed and transmit the virus across the country was to high a risk,’ they had been ‘verbally threatened and told that I was banned from site potentially making me unemployed.’ 
  • At Bolsover, a worker told the local authority that they were ill and ‘thought it was Coronavirus but dare not have time off as did not want to lose pay.’ 

Enforcement 

  • At Daventry, a local authority inspector said that ‘following a number of accidents involving manual handling’ it was ‘difficult to find evidence of training and management outcomes of accident investigations.’ 
  • At Rotherham, an inspector told the company that there was ‘no evidence to confirm that suitable and sufficient assessments had been undertaken of the risks to the health and safety of your employees,’ and there was ‘no evidence to confirm that a written policy was provided with respect to the health and safety of your employees.’ 
  • At Norwich, an inspector said that they were ‘briefly shown an electronic copy of a manual handling risk assessment but was refused a copy. I was informed that the other documentation was not immediately accessible and it was made clear that I would not have been given copies of these if they were. I asked to be shown the areas where the accidents took place, this was also refused.’ 

[3] The company’s statement is quoted in the i, Amazon warehouse ambulance callouts surge in run-up to Black Friday as unions slam safety standards, 26 November 2021 https://inews.co.uk/news/amazon-warehouses-ambulance-callouts-surge-in-run-up-to-black-friday-as-unions-slam-safety-standards-1319480 

‘SHAMEFUL’ FIGURES SHOW MORE THAN A THOUSAND SERIOUS INJURIES REPORTED AT AMAZON SITES 

There can now be no denying Amazon warehouses are dangerous, says GMB union after an investigation showed ambulance callouts surged 56 per cent during pandemic  

‘Shameful’ figures reveal more than a thousand serious injuries at Amazon sites have been reported to health and safety bodies since 2016, a GMB investigation has found.  

Disturbingly, the number of injuries reported to health and safety bodies is rapidly increasing.  

294 were reported in the financial year 2020/21 – up from 231 the year before, or an increase of 27%. This compared to 139 reports in 2016/17. [1] 

The true figure could be much higher, with not all local authorities having responded to the FOI survey. 

Amazon sites with the most reported injuries over the last 5 years include Coalville (95), Dunfermline (93), and Manchester Sunbank Lane (87).  Central Bedfordshire had the most reports of any local authority, with 135 reports of serious injuries. 

Local authority inspection reports obtained by GMB reveal multiple areas of concern, including: injuries to workers, unsafe working conditions, Covid-19 concerns, and poor health and safety record keeping or a lack of compliance with inspectors. [2] 

Separate new figures obtained by the union show that more than a thousand ambulance callouts were also made over the same period – and that callouts rose by 56% during the pandemic (between 2019/20 and 2020/21).  

Despite Amazon’s claim that ‘the vast majority of ambulance call outs to our buildings are related to pre-existing conditions,’ ambulance trusts reported multiple callouts for falls, traumatic injuries, and cases of Covid-19.  

At one ambulance trust in Yorkshire, specific traumatic injuries accounted for one in ten callouts. [3] 

Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: 

“More than a thousand serious injuries at Amazon sites is a shameful statistic and one that the company must address urgently – and the true picture is probably worse. 

“GMB investigations have now built up years’ worth of evidence and there can be no denying Amazon warehouse are currently dangerous, dehumanising places to work. 

“We will be writing to the Health and Safety Executive to set out our findings – it is time for a proper external audit and investigation of working conditions at this highly profitable company.  

“It’s time Amazon stopped burying its head in the sand, met with GMB and worked out how to make Amazon a great, safe place to work.”  
 
ENDS 
 
Media enquiries: GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at press.office@gmb.org.uk

Notes:

[1] Results for responding local authorities and ambulance trusts by year: 

Type 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21 TOTAL 
Local authority – RIDDOR reports 139 178 198 231 294  1,040  
Ambulance trust – callouts 153 187 164 219 342 1,065 

In both cases, some relevant authorities did not provide data and the true totals would likely be higher. Ambulance figures exclude responses from the South East Coast Ambulance Service, which provided data on callouts to the postcode area only. 
 
Employers should report serious work-related injuries under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). Injuries should be reported when they result in a worker being ‘being away from work, or unable to perform their normal work duties’ for seven consecutive days, or when they are a ‘specified injury,’ which includes: 

  • fractures, other than to fingers, thumbs and toes 
  • amputations 
  • any injury likely to lead to permanent loss of sight or reduction in sight 
  • any crush injury to the head or torso causing damage to the brain or internal organs 
  • serious burns (including scalding) which: 
  • covers more than 10% of the body 
  • causes significant damage to the eyes, respiratory system or other vital organs 
  • any scalping requiring hospital treatment 
  • any loss of consciousness caused by head injury or asphyxia 
  • any other injury arising from working in an enclosed space which: 
  • leads to hypothermia or heat-induced illness 
  • requires resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours 
https://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/reportable-incidents.htm

Incidents reportable under RIDDOR will not necessarily result in an ambulance callout, and ambulance callouts will not necessarily be for incidents captured under RIDDOR. 

[2] Examples of incidents or areas of concern by category, drawn from local authority reports, are described below: 

Injuries 

  • At Medway, in 2020 a worker was injured went a pallet collapsed, resulting in back and knee pain that left them unable to work for at least two weeks. 
  • At Dunfermline, in 2019 a worker suffered a ‘laceration’ after making contact with an exposed saw blade (due to the item not being correctly packaged). 
  • In Manchester, in mid-2018 a worker was left unable to work for more than seven days due to back pain incurred after lifting a parcel that weighed 26kg – a weight 73% heavier than an internal limit of 15kg. 
  • At a London site in mid-2018, a worker who was hit in the head by a falling tote bag ‘drifted in and out of consciousness while on the floor … [and] appeared to stop breathing for 15-20 seconds.’  
     
    The ‘main root cause of this incident’ was recorded as ‘failing to provide a safe working environment for a 3rd party operator within FC [Fulfilment Centre] due to sortation cage being overfilled and unfixed shelf manipulated in unsafe position.’ 

Working conditions 

  • At Coalville, in early 2021 a self-employed courier for Amazon described the work as ‘mentally and physically stressful and we have no time for breaks. We are delivering over 270 + parcels with 180 + stops daily.’ 
  • At Brent, a late 2020 inspection found a build-up of ‘black micro fungi’ in water tanks that provided drinking water (including to staff drinking fountains). 
  • When Amazon’s Dundee warehouse opened in 2016/17, agency workers were working at a temperature of just 3.2°C during the day – falling to sub-zero temperatures at night.  
     
    The HSE advises that warehouses should have an ambient temperature of at least 13°C. The law says that temperatures must be at a ‘reasonable’ level, but the HSE advises that ‘if the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.’ http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/law.htm  

Covid-19 

  • At Kegworth in the East Midlands, a complaint was made in November 2020 of ‘daily incidences of not complying with Covid19 regulations re social distancing etc.’ A separate complaint was made from the same site in January 2021 of ‘flouting of rules, employees not being protected, no screen around work stations, working in an unsafe environment.’ 
  • At Sunderland, a third party driver complained that when they had raised concerns about Covid-19 protections and said ‘the potential to become exposed and transmit the virus across the country was to high a risk,’ they had been ‘verbally threatened and told that I was banned from site potentially making me unemployed.’ 
  • At Bolsover, a worker told the local authority that they were ill and ‘thought it was Coronavirus but dare not have time off as did not want to lose pay.’ 

Enforcement 

  • At Daventry, a local authority inspector said that ‘following a number of accidents involving manual handling’ it was ‘difficult to find evidence of training and management outcomes of accident investigations.’ 
  • At Rotherham, an inspector told the company that there was ‘no evidence to confirm that suitable and sufficient assessments had been undertaken of the risks to the health and safety of your employees,’ and there was ‘no evidence to confirm that a written policy was provided with respect to the health and safety of your employees.’ 
  • At Norwich, an inspector said that they were ‘briefly shown an electronic copy of a manual handling risk assessment but was refused a copy. I was informed that the other documentation was not immediately accessible and it was made clear that I would not have been given copies of these if they were. I asked to be shown the areas where the accidents took place, this was also refused.’ 

[3] The company’s statement is quoted in the i, Amazon warehouse ambulance callouts surge in run-up to Black Friday as unions slam safety standards, 26 November 2021 https://inews.co.uk/news/amazon-warehouses-ambulance-callouts-surge-in-run-up-to-black-friday-as-unions-slam-safety-standards-1319480 

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