Federal authorities have issued citations against
at six of the company’s warehouses for failing to adequately report injuries.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, issued citations on Thursday after conducting workplace safety inspections at Amazon facilities outside of New York City: Albany, N.Y.; Denver; Boise, Idaho; Chicago and Orlando, Fla., according to a spokesman from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. OSHA investigated after it received referrals for potential workplace hazards that included Amazon’s required pace of work for employees.
The OSHA and Justice Department investigation could lead to a lawsuit or settlement.
“While we acknowledge there might have been a small number of administrative errors over the years, we are confident in the numbers we’ve reported to the government,” an Amazon spokeswoman said. She said that safety is a top priority at Amazon and that the issues cited by OSHA aren’t systemic.
Amazon has faced inquiries in recent years over workplace protocols and safety at its facilities, which are used for storing, sorting and shipping out its packages.
California and New York have been among states that scrutinized Amazon’s warehouse practices, and the company also faced an OSHA investigation after a tornado damaged a warehouse in Illinois and killed six workers. The agency flagged some issues with Amazon’s response to the disaster but didn’t issue any fines.
Federal authorities in July said they were investigating Amazon’s workplace practices after receiving reports of health and safety violations. A spokesman said at the time that the civil division was investigating Amazon for safety hazards and “possible fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others.”
In past years, Amazon has recorded higher injury rates than industry peers, federal labor data has shown. The company has previously said it reports incidents more carefully than others in the industry, a practice that could make its injuries appear higher compared with peers.
Some Amazon warehouse workers have complained about the pace at which they are required to perform their duties. Employees typically have to sort or pack hundreds of items an hour in what can often be repetitive motions, and some workers have said there isn’t enough time for breaks.
Amazon has disciplined employees when they haven’t hit certain targets per shift for preparing packages and other duties, though the company in recent years has said it has tried to alter the way it tracks workers to take into account outlying incidents made over a long period. Some employees have said the fast pace of work is one of the reasons they have sought unionization at the company.
last year signed a law requiring Amazon and other employers to disclose any quotas or workplace-productivity measures it applies to workers in the state. The law is intended to bar companies from enforcing quotas and penalties that affect employees’ health and safety, including the ability to take breaks or use the bathroom.
Amazon has said it is making efforts to improve worker safety. Chief Executive
said earlier this year that the company’s employee injury rates were “sometimes misunderstood” but vowed to do better.
While it has continued to hire workers to meet demand at its facilities, Amazon has also invested more into automating its warehouses. The company last month unveiled a collection of new robots, one of which has an arm that combines advanced artificial intelligence and a variety of grippers and could one day replace certain jobs at Amazon.
—Corinne Ramey contributed to this article.
Write to Sebastian Herrera at Sebastian.Herrera@wsj.com
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