Amazon’s UK fulfilment centres were visited by ambulances once every two days in 2018 after workplace accidents.
A report by The Sunday Times released in October 2019 has shed some light on the working conditions at the Amazon warehouses in the UK. In total, an ambulance was called 193 times to 11 fulfilment centres during 2018. This equates to an ambulance being called out once every two days.
Injuries from these workplace accidents varied in seriousness, ranging from exhaustion and breathing problems to more severe life-changing injuries including fractures, amputations, scalping and burning.
The report found that since 2016, the 11 fulfilment centres around the UK have been visited by an ambulance 606 times.
The figures also show that 240 reports of serious injury or near misses were sent to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the 2019 financial year.
The Sunday Times reporter spoke to one member of staff who stated they were disciplined when they did not finish a shift after becoming ill at work and taken to hospital.
One incident at a London warehouse saw an employee knocked unconscious after injuring their head. The employee temporarily stopped breathing, according to data compiled by the GMB Union, which has hundreds of members across Amazon sites. The accident investigation report found that “the main root cause of this incident was failing to provide a safe working environment”.
Mick Rix, a GMB Union National Officer said of the Amazon working conditions:
Amazon are spending millions on PR campaigns trying to persuade people its warehouses are great places to work. But the facts are there for all to see - things are getting worse.
Hundreds of stricken Amazon workers are needing urgent medical attention. Conditions are hellish.
Tim Roache, the General Secretary of the GMB Union, told The Sunday Times:
Behind the slick exterior lie working practices that owe more to Victorian workhouses than what we would expect of a reputable online retailer.
The most common reasons for an ambulance call-out were fainting, breathing problems and chest pains – painting a picture of over-worked and stressed staff.
This was evident in a 2018 poll of 100 Amazon workers, which found that more than half were suffering from depression and eight of the 100 said that they had thought about killing themselves.
In the poll, one worker stated:
People just peed in bottles because they lived in fear of being disciplined over 'idle time' and losing their jobs just because they needed the loo.
Amazon denied claims of workers' stress in its warehouses, saying they are not convinced the staff polled actually worked for them.
Amazon also released a statement in response to the Sunday Times report. They stated:
We have a focus on ensuring we provide a great environment for all our employees.
Amazon ensures all of its associates have easy access to toilet facilities which are just a short walk from where they are working.
It remains to be seen whether Amazon UK will remedy some of their employees’ growing concerns surrounding health and safety.
How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help?
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