An investigation has begun into working conditions at a number of massive Amazon warehouses in New York, Chicago and Orlando.
Federal prosecutors in New York and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating a number of Amazon warehouses as part of a civil probe.
OSHA is a division of the Labor Department that governs workplace safety and examined several of Amazon’s warehouses outside New York City, Chicago, and Orlando for potential risks.
This was in response to referrals received from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) .
SDNY chief spokesperson Nicholas Biase said: “The Civil Division of the SDNY is investigating potential worker safety hazards at Amazon warehouses across the country, as well as possible fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Labor confirmed investigations had begun at Amazon warehouses in New York, Illinois, and Florida.
It said it “routinely receives referrals” from various federal agencies, law enforcement and other groups, and declined to share more information about the probes, as they are “active investigations.”
The office asked current and former Amazon warehouse employees to put an online form for reporting any safety issues.
It particularly said that it is looking for information on safety risks related to the pace of labor in warehouses.
It is also looking into injuries that may have been under-treated at Amazon’s on-site first-aid center, AmCare, or at a clinic suggested by the firm.
The retailer has been chastised repeatedly by politicians, regulators, activist groups, and its own employees for its treatment of warehouse and delivery workers.
Critics have increasingly focused on Amazon’s use of productivity targets, claiming that the company’s obsession with speed contributes to workplace hazards at warehouses.
Several studies conducted by the Strategic Organizing Center, a labor union alliance, linked high injury rates among warehouse and delivery employees to the retail giant’s “obsession with speed.”
Legislators in New York and California have taken aim at the pace of labor at Amazon warehouses, among other things, by proposing legislation to limit the use of unduly stringent quotas.
Amazon warehouse workers have previously claimed that the company’s fast-paced work schedule precludes them from taking proper washroom and rest breaks and that this results in unjust disciplinary measures.
Workplace safety concerns are one of the numerous factors behind a recent surge in Amazon employee organizing initiatives.
The company has previously stated that it supports the ability of workers to organize but does not feel unions are the best option for employees.
It has denied using productivity quotas in its facilities and has refuted claims of hazardous working conditions.