OSHA investigates deaths of Amazon workplace accidents

A widow and a breast cancer survivor who has two sons and four grandchildren recently died at an Amazon fulfillment center in Pennsylvania. She was operating a motorized pallet jack that crashed into some shelving, causing multiple blunt-force injuries. However, this incident is not the only death that has been reported in the warehouses of the immensely popular ecommerce company.

Last December, a New Jersey worker at another Amazon center was caught by a conveyor belt and dragged while he was sorting items. He passed away at a local hospital. He was hired by a temporary staffing agency as the huge ecommerce company required 70,000 temporary workers during the 2013 holiday season. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is conducting an investigation in both of these workplace accidents.

According to sources, OSHA has completed their investigation regarding the death of the New Jersey worker. Five companies were cited for serious violations, including the subcontractor and four temporary employment agencies. Each of these companies faces a fine of $6,000. The subcontractor, who was contracted by Amazon to direct temporary employees involved in sorting operations was cited for one serious violation.

Employers are liable for any workplace injuries and deaths caused by unsafe work conditions. However, many people injured at work may not know their rights and may suffer financially and emotionally from their injuries. Therefore, knowledge of the laws related to workers compensation may be useful.

No person should suffer because of employer negligence. Pennsylvania has various laws that safeguard workers from such accidents and while ensuring that they receive adequate compensation for their losses. An injured worker may choose to file a claim petition and consider filing for Social Security Disability benefits. Families of any worker, who died in a work accident, can also claim damages from the employer for their losses.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Two deaths at Amazon warehouses being investigated by OSHA," Carolyn Kellogg, June 16, 2014

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