As online retailers surge and traditional brick-and-mortar stores continue to disappear, jobs in warehouses fulfilling online orders are becoming more abundant. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that warehouse employment has grown by 90 percent since 2000.
Warehouse jobs generally pay well and they're growing at a much faster rate than the national average. But as workers migrate from retail positions to warehouses, the risks increase. Warehouses employ machinery, workers often handle heavy loads, noise levels are high and there are other potential hazards. All these combined pose a greater risk of injury to warehouse workers.
Seven workers have died since 2013 in Amazon facilities alone, and countless more have sustained injuries that led to them seeking medical treatment and missing work. News reports detail grueling hours in e-commerce warehouses marked by hard labor in which injuries are commonplace. Amazon appeared on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health "Dirty Dozen" list - a roundup of the companies that "put workers and communities at risk" -- the last two years in a row, citing preventable deaths and injuries in its warehouses.
According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the fatal-injury rate in warehouses exceeds the national average. OSHA cites the following practices as contributing to warehouse workplace injuries:
- Improper forklift use
- Products stacked improperly
- Failure to use protective gear
- Improper lockout/tagout procedures for heavy machinery
- Inadequate fire safety measures
- Injuries from repetitive motion
If you work at a warehouse, the best thing you can do to avoid injury is to consciously follow all safety precautions. It is also important to know your rights as a worker, both federally and through the state of California. This will protect you from potential abuse by an employer.
However, if you or a loved one becomes injured in a warehouse accident, it is important to take action. Keep records of the incident and hold onto documents like medical bills and pay stubs. You may wish to seek legal counsel to help you identify the best way forward and to seek any compensation to which you are entitled.