Amazon is known worldwide for its competitive pricing and efficient shipping. Based in Seattle, Washington, the company has over 70 warehouses around the world and employs a large number of Kentucky workers in its Campbellsville site. On paper, a job with Amazon looks like a great deal. They offer a decent hourly wage, 401(k) with matching and health insurance for full-time employees.
But working for the internet giant also has a downside, as some Kentucky employees have discovered. While Amazon touts its warehouse safety records as being better than the average for warehouses and even department stores, some of their actual employees may disagree. They say the number of reported injuries is kept lower by Amazon in a couple of different ways. Some employees are afraid to report incidents for fear of being written up and potentially losing their job. Others are told to attribute a certain injury to a pre-existing condition even though the current injury was work-related. At least some of the Amazon warehouses have their own medical personnel to treat workplace injuries so the employees are not seen by outside doctors, which might lead to a federal report.
Extreme temperatures are also an issue in the Amazon warehouses, as they are in other facilities. But Amazon seems hesitant to allow workers to take more breaks or to work at a slower pace, even when the temperature gets very high. An Amazon warehouse in Pennsylvania was under scrutiny when it was discovered that ambulances were parked outside the building, just waiting to take workers suffering from the heat to the hospital. One Kentucky employee who used to work as a safety official was concerned about the Campbellsville employees when temperatures reached 100 degrees, but he never talked to management about slowing production because he knew it wouldn’t happen. To keep employees safe in the heat, he had people walking around offering them Gatorade. Amazon did install air-conditioning in its Lexington warehouse last year, and the rest of their Kentucky facilities should have air-conditioning this year.
This information may make Amazon seem like a money-hungry, sacrifice-the-workers-for-profit company. And in truth, the sole reason the company exists is to make money. But Amazon is not alone; all companies strive to make as much profit as possible. Without companies, Kentuckians would not have anywhere to work. But that does not mean an employee’s health should be put in jeopardy or that proper medical care should be denied to save a buck or two.
Kentucky employees in this position should take action to protect themselves. If you are afraid to speak to a supervisor or manager because you think you may lose your job, contact a Kentucky employment attorney for advice on how to best handle the situation. The employment attorneys at Charles W. Miller & Associates have many years of experience in helping Kentucky workers stay employed in a safe environment. Do not put your health or safety in jeopardy for a job. Your life is worth more than a paycheck.
Amazon warehouse jobs push workers to physical limit; The Seattle Times; Hal Bernton and Susan Kelleher; April 3, 2012