Electrocution, cardiac pain, and a miscarriage: Amazon warehouse investigation reveals 600 ambulance call-outs for injured workers

Business Insider

amazon warehouse
Amazon warehouse worker.
Reuters/Lucas Jackson

  • Freedom of Information requests show that ambulances were called 600 times to Amazon warehouses in the UK over the past three years.
  • GMB union, which filed the requests, found that ambulances were called for pregnancy-related incidents, breathing problems, cardiac pain, electrocution, and even major trauma.
  • The union said Amazon treated its workers like “robots” and its central England Rugeley site was a dangerous place to work.
  • Amazon said it was wrong to suggest it had unsafe working conditions and said call-out rates were “dramatically” low.

Amazon is under fire again over the way it treats the thousands of staff who work at its warehouses after an investigation revealed 600 ambulance call-outs to its UK sites over the past three years.

Freedom of Information requests lodged by GMB, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, revealed 115 ambulance call-outs just to Amazon’s Rugeley warehouse in central England.

The call-outs include three for maternity and pregnancy-related issues, and three for major trauma. There were 14 calls for people with breathing problems, one call for the building being on fire, and two for electrocution.

The union found that there had only been eight ambulance call-outs over the same period to a similarly sized Tesco warehouse close to Rugeley.

GMB officer Mick Rix accused Amazon of treating its staff like “robots.”

“Hundreds of ambulance call outs, pregnant women telling us they are forced to stand for ten hours a day, pick, stow, stretch and bend, pull heavy carts and walk miles — even miscarriages and pregnancy issues at work,” he said.

“I’ve never seen figures like this — Amazon Rugeley must be one of the most dangerous places to work in Britain. Amazon should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.”

The miscarriage Rix referred to was raised at a meeting of British lawmakers, who were discussing the gig economy. According to testimony at the meeting, an Amazon worker said one of her colleagues had a miscarriage as a result of the continuous pressure to hit targets.

An Amazon spokesman told Business Insider: “[It is] simply not correct to suggest that we have unsafe working conditions based on this data or on unsubstantiated anecdotes.

“Requests for ambulance services at our fulfilment centres are predominantly associated with personal health events and are not work-related. Nevertheless, ambulance visits at our UK fulfilment centres last year was 0.00001 per worked hour, which is dramatically low.”

One woman told GMB that she had requested a less physical job at Amazon when she found out she was pregnant. She said: “I was told I could not be transferred and must continue picking, which involves bending, stretching and moving a heavy cart, and walking miles.”

Amazon said: “Once we know someone is pregnant we work closely with them and carry out a full risk assessment, and, if necessary, consult a doctor. If the employee’s health or that of the unborn child is at risk due to the work that they are employed to do by Amazon, we will vary the employee’s conditions to alleviate all risk, or find the employee a suitable alternative role. We will, as a last option, place the employee on full paid sick leave.”

Amazon warehouse workers have previously told Business Insider that pressure to hit targets makes it difficult to take breaks to go to the toilet or eat. The company has said it doesn’t recognise this portrayal of its working conditions.

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