Advertisement
Employment

Amazon warehouse injuries spike in run-up to key shopping dates, study finds

A new study by GMB union shows ambulance call-outs to Amazon warehouses rises before important sales dates.

Injuries recorded at Amazon warehouses increase dramatically in the run-up to key shopping dates such as Amazon Prime Day in summer, Black Friday in late November and Christmas, a new study has revealed.

An analysis of ambulance call-outs to Amazon warehouses shows a spike before important sales dates, according to the GMB union, which it said proved the “inhumanity of working conditions” for the company’s employees.

The report is based on a monthly breakdown of ambulance call-outs between 2017 and 2019 from three ambulance trusts via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

During that period, call-outs to emergency services were generally steady between March and June. There was a small increase in July – when Amazon Prime Day was held in those years – which GMB believe was a result of the pressures leading up to the massive sales event.

Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.

The figures rose sharply later in the year: the total number of ambulance callouts between October and December – covering Black Friday and the Christmas period – were almost three times larger than between April and June. There was also a small increase in February.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Examples of worker injuries have included being knocked unconscious, electrocuted, breaking bones, and having to call emergency services due to chest pains and breathing problems. There have also been reports of heavily pregnant employees being forced to stand for hours on end, the union added.

Between 2015 and 2018, more than 600 ambulance call-outs were made to Amazon warehouses, it said.In more than half of those cases, patients were taken to hospital.

At Amazon’s Rugeley warehouse site in Staffordshire, ambulances were called 115 times – including three for women due to pregnancy or maternity reasons and three for major trauma.A similar study by the union found the number of serious injuries of near misses recorded at Amazon warehouses in the same three year period.

A previous survey of union members working at Amazon warehouses showed 87 per cent are in constant or occasional pain due to their workload.

One heavily pregnant woman said she was forced to work standing up for the entire duration of her shirt, while MPs were told in 2018 about an employee who had a miscarriage because of continuous pressure to work and hit targets.

Article continues below

In June, a separate report found workers at US Amazon warehouses are injured at a higher rate than those doing similar jobs at other companies’ warehouses. Amazon workers had 5.9 serious injuries per 100 people, almost 80 per cent higher than the rest of the industry, the study showed.

The research comes as ITV News found one UK warehouse was destroying millions of pounds worth of stock every year. Undercover footage showed workers at the company’s Dunfermline warehouse sorting unsold laptops, TVs, hairdryers, Covid masks and more into boxes marked “destroy” that were then tracked to landfill sites or recycling centres.

Get free training, careers advice and access to hundreds of thousands of jobs with The Big Issue’s RORA Jobs & Training

Earlier this year, Amazon was forced to apologise after it falsely denied reports that its employees had to urinate in plastic bottles.

The company has also faced allegations of “cutting corners” on Covid safety during the first wave of the pandemic – something it has denied. Hundreds of US Amazon staff took strike action to protest various issues around the company’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including limited sick pay.

Other concerns at the time include a lack of protective equipment and poor warehouse cleaning practices.

To coincide with Prime Day on Monday, GMB has launched a digital hub for its Amazon members to report safety concerns.

Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said: “We know Amazon fulfilment centres are dangerous, stressful places to work at the best of times.

“In the run up to key sales events like Prime Day the inhumanity of working conditions at Amazon warehouses goes into overdrive. Workers are expected to operate like robots gone haywire, picking and packing at a furious rate to meet completely unrealistic targets.

“It’s time for the richest company in the world to invest in safety, sit down with GMB and make sure staff work in a safe environment.”

The Big Issue has contacted Amazon for comment.

The Big Issue is offering free training and job search help to anyone who needs it with our new RORA Jobs and Training Toolkit. Sign up to receive a free three-month digital subscription to The Big Issue, access to dozens of free or discounted online training courses and the ability to search hundreds of thousands of jobs.

If you are out of work or worried about work and looking for immediate, practical advice call The Big Issue Jobs helpline on 0204 534 2810 or email RORAhelp@momentagroup.com

Get career tips and advice from our Jobs and Training series:

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
Jobs for school leavers: How traineeships and apprenticeships can start your career
Careers advice

Jobs for school leavers: How traineeships and apprenticeships can start your career

NHS workers could strike over pay rise that leaves hundreds of thousands worse off in real terms
NHS workers

NHS workers could strike over pay rise that leaves hundreds of thousands worse off in real terms

Cafes, pubs and restaurants are already being hammered by sky-high energy bills
Energy

Cafes, pubs and restaurants are already being hammered by sky-high energy bills

Number of universal credit claimants facing sanctions soars past 100,000
Employment

Number of universal credit claimants facing sanctions soars past 100,000

Most Popular

Read All
Oil giants Shell and BP have been handed £700m of taxpayer cash despite bumper profits
1.

Oil giants Shell and BP have been handed £700m of taxpayer cash despite bumper profits

What are the risks of Don't Pay UK? We asked a leading lawyer
2.

What are the risks of Don't Pay UK? We asked a leading lawyer

How broken is the UK's public transport? I spent all day on buses to find out
3.

How broken is the UK's public transport? I spent all day on buses to find out

Sadiq Khan's Right to Buy-back scheme leads to return of 1,500 council homes
4.

Sadiq Khan's Right to Buy-back scheme leads to return of 1,500 council homes

Keep up to date with the Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.