Amazon’s use of robots in its warehouses has led to extra accidents for human employees, an investigation says.
The Center for Investigative Reporting stated it had acquired inner information for 150 warehouses over 4 years.
At the commonest sort of Amazon “fulfilment centre”, severe accidents are 50% increased for people who have robots than these with out, it says.
Amazon stated its numbers have been excessive as a result of it inspired the reporting of even minor incidents.
It accuses the large on-line retailer of “bald misrepresentations the company has deployed to hide its growing safety crisis”.
It stated Amazon officers had “profoundly misled the public and lawmakers” over its security document.
The firm, nevertheless, stated: “We strongly refute the claims that we have misled anybody.
“The reporter is misinterpreting information, and the very inner paperwork he claims to have obtained finally illustrate one factor – we now have a deep give attention to the security of our groups.”
Injuries rise with the robots
Amazon first introduced robots into its warehouses after acquiring a robotics manufacturer in 2012.
But workers speaking to Reveal said the robots ferrying items through the warehouse meant they were now confined to workstations, standing still and repeating monotonous tasks.
On top of that, the robots were much more efficient – meaning that productivity expectations for human workers had increased too. Pickers at the warehouse, for example, said they had seen their expected number of items to handle grow from 100 to 400 an hour.
Internal documents show that facilities with the robots have injury rates about 50% higher than those without, the report says.
Last 12 months alone, there have been 14,000 “severe” injuries – requiring days off or job restrictions – and the overall injury rate was almost double the industry standard, it says.
A few warehouses reported as many as five times as many injuries as the industry average, measured in serious injuries per 100 workers.
Amazon said that the injury rate in the reports used by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration was not a metric for “severe damage”.
The “Dart” rate – “days away, restricted or transferred”- was higher for Amazon because it “encourages somebody with any kind of damage, for instance a small pressure or sprain, to keep away from work till they’re higher”, the company said.
It did not, however, directly respond to the claim that the number of these incidents was higher in robotics-equipped facilities than those without.
The report also says Amazon’s public statements are misleading, based on its discoveries – something Amazon fiercely denies.
Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s chief executive of consumer business, argued in 2019 that robotics had a beneficial impact on safety.
“Making jobs safer by implementing robotics is only a win for everyone – making jobs extra fascinating, permitting folks to reap the benefits of their innate human creativity as a substitute of doing rote issues again and again,” he stated.
Reveal’s evaluation of the information it acquired discovered that 2019’s “Prime Day” sales period was “the 12 months’s most harmful week for accidents at Amazon fulfilment centres, with almost 400 severe accidents recorded throughout the nation”.
But Amazon said that was based on a misunderstanding because there were more workers employed at peak periods, and in fact the number of injuries per worker remained stable or even declined during those periods.
‘Millions spent on safety’
Amazon has long faced a public relations battle over how its treats its employees.
Responding to the allegations in the Reveal report, Amazon said it was constantly learning, and improving its safety procedures.
“We proceed to see enhancements in damage prevention and discount by programmes centered on improved ergonomics, delivering guided bodily and wellness workouts, offering mechanical workstation help tools, enhancing workstation setup and design, forklift telematics, and forklift guardrails to separate tools from pedestrians – to call a number of,” it stated.