Amazon workers report 440 serious safety incidents including fractures and ‘sub-zero’ conditions

'National scandal': Retailer urged to take action after revelations of overworked drivers causing crashes and a 'culture of fear' to speak out in matters that risk workers' lives

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 09 October 2018 11:05 BST
In one incident a forklift driver in London crashed into a column, almost causing a floor to collapse
In one incident a forklift driver in London crashed into a column, almost causing a floor to collapse (PA)

Amazon workers have reported 440 serious health and safety incidents at the company’s warehouses since 2015, an investigation has revealed

Jack Dromey, the shadow work and pensions minister, called on Amazon to end a “national scandal” after the revelations, including one incident where a forklift driver in London crashed into a column, almost causing a floor to collapse in a “lapse of concentration possibly due to long working hours”.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the Amazon worker who reported the incident gave no contact details for fear of being sacked.

According to another report to the HSE, employees were forced to work in “sub-zero” conditions at the e-commerce giant’s Dundee facility.

Delivery drivers in Peterborough complained that they were forced to wait for eight to 10 hours in unheated room, a fault they said “needs to be rectified before Amazon is responsible for road accidents”.

In another complaint, a courier from Sunderland said Amazon and its contractors “create an environment of fear to speak out in matters that risk our lives and the lives of the general public on the road”.

Other reports detailed workers who suffered fractures, head injuries, contusions and collisions with heavy equipment.

The reports, obtained by the GMB Union, suggest that the company could face enforcement action from local authorities under health and safety laws.

According to the union, one local authority, Central Bedfordshire Council, refused to release copies of correspondence with Amazon on the grounds that: “Disclosing [this] information may prejudice an ongoing investigation and/or future enforcement action.”

Tim Roache, the GMB general secretary, accused Amazon of treating workers like robots not human beings and said the official figures gave a “horrifying insight” into the company’s warehouses.

“No one should go to work worried about being knocked unconscious or breaking bones,” he said.

“This is a multi-billion pound company owned by the richest man in the world. You have to ask yourself whether it’s a deliberate decision to sacrifice safety to keep the bottom line growing, because I can’t see why else you’d tolerate these conditions.

“Amazon won’t even let GMB Union through their gates, despite the fact we have hundreds of members working inside. If Amazon is so confident they're doing right by their workforce, why are they worried about talking to us?”

He called on Amazon to negotiate with the union to ensure workers are safe.

Dromey said: “A supposed 21st-century company, Amazon is guilty of behaving like a 19th-century mill owner, putting its workers at risk in pursuit of profit.

“This cannot go on because deaths in Amazon will surely follow.

Jeff Bezos should hang his head in shame. His company should meet the GMB to sort what is a national scandal.”

Amazon said it had 43 per cent fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing companies in the UK, according to official figures.

"Amazon is a safe place to work and reports to the contrary are simply wrong," a spokesperson said.

"Amazon has created more than 25,000 good jobs with good pay and benefits across Britain and we are proud of the work they do on behalf of customers every day."

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