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No Real Consequences Imposed on Amazon For High Rate of Workplace Injuries

A twenty-year-old Amazon employee died at an Amazon distribution center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in May 2023. His head collided with an overhead package conveyor and became trapped. Following an 11-week investigation, Indiana safety officials concluded that Amazon failed to ensure a workplace "free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death." The penalty is a $7,000 fine, the state's maximum for a serious safety citation.

A Washington Post article underscores the limited ability of state and federal officials to impose penalties that create financial incentives to change on Amazon and other large companies. Since 2022, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has filed at least six safety violations against Amazon, fining it over $270,000 in response to employees' high rates of injuries and increased risks of musculoskeletal disorders. Amazon makes about $9 billion in profits each quarter.

Amazon is contesting the Indiana safety order. The state asserts that Amazon should have adequately trained employees and enforced safety rules about driving elevated lifts under low-clearance machinery and in danger zones. In response, Amazon said it quickly rectified safety issues, such as hanging warning signs. Indiana bars families from suing for wrongful death in a civil case. The employee's mother is pursuing a workers' compensation claim.