Workers At Amazon Warehouse Complain Of Sweltering Heat

When most of us make a purchase from Amazon.com or some other e-tailer, we rarely give much thought to the folks behind the scenes responsible for fulfilling your order at the warehouse. But several employees at an Amazon warehouse in Pennsylvania are trying to make people aware of the humans behind all those cardboard boxes after a summer of working through stifling heat.

Allentown’s The Morning Call spoke to 20 current and former employees at the warehouse in Breinigsville, PA, only one of whom described it as a good place to work.

From the Morning Call report:

Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.

During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn’t quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.

This past June, 15 employees collapsed at work on the same same. That same month, a local ER doctor treated a number of warehouse workers and called OSHA to complain of an “unsafe environment.”

When contacted by OSHA, a manager at the Warehouse responded:

On June 3, 2011, the Lehigh Valley area experienced unusual, extremely high temperatures which caused the heat index inside our building to reach a temperature above 95 degrees in a few areas of the building… As a result of these high temperatures, 15 out of 1,600 employees experienced heat-related symptoms. Six of these employees were treated at a local hospital ER for non-work related medical conditions triggered by the heat. None of those employees was admitted to the hospital; each employee was treated and released the same day. The other employees received water and ice treatment … by our facility’s first-aid department. All employees returned to work the same day.

Following the OSHA inspection, the manager says that Amazon installed 13 additional fans in the warehouse, planned to install a cooling system and temporarily hired emergency medical personnel to work on-site.

Inside Amazon’s warehouse [MCall.com]