Amazon Work Safety

I read in the Guardian that Amazon has been accused of treating its staff like robots. There are some numbers in the article: 566,000 employees, 600 times an ambulance has been called out to warehouses in the past three years., 200 union members who say they suffered pain as a result of their workload.

Let’s assume that the number of employees was the same for each of the past three years and that the number of ambulance callouts was evenly spread over the period. That’s 200 callouts per years for 566,000 employees, or one callout per year for every 2,830 employees.

Is that a lot? Is it out of line with other similar firms? What similar firms are there, in fact? Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, the Post Office?

And what were the ambulances called out for? Were they all work-related accidents? Did some people fall ill for reasons unrelated to their jobs?

Without context the figures are meaningless other than to persuade me emotionally that there is something wrong at Amazon. I am not an apologist for Amazon, but this ‘news’ needs context.

Here’s some context from the article.

A Freedom of Information request to ambulance services from the GMB union revealed 115 call-outs to Amazon’s site in Rugeley, near Birmingham, including three relating to pregnancy or maternity problems and three for major trauma.

There were also two call-outs to the site for electric shocks and eight for people who had fallen unconscious. At least 1,800 people work year-round at the Rugeley warehouse and more than 2,000 more can work over the peak Christmas period.

That compares to only eight calls in total to a nearby Tesco warehouse of a similar physical size and where about 1,300 people work, over the same period, according to another FOI request by the union.

Amazon said it was “simply not correct to suggest that we have unsafe working conditions based on this data or on unsubstantiated anecdotes. Requests for ambulance services at our fulfilment centres are predominantly associated with personal health events and are not work related. Nevertheless, ambulance visits at our UK fulfilment centres last year was 0.00001 per worked hour, which is dramatically low.”

A spokesman said that, according to the Health and Safety Executive’s method of reporting injuries, Amazon had 43% fewer injuries on average than other companies conducting transportation and warehousing activities in the UK.

This article is trying to persuade me emotionally that there is something wrong at Amazon. I am not an apologist for Amazon, but without more context this ‘news’ looks more like a hatchet job.