Amazon Warehouse Robots Cause Worker Injuries: Know Your Workers’ Compensation Rights
March 2, 2022
It is no longer science fiction. As robots rapidly outnumber humans in Amazon warehouses and fulfillment centers across Pennsylvania, increased workers’ compensation claims are a stark reminder that humans are losing the workplace injury battle. The reality today is that robots and artificial intelligence, under the control of Amazon’s corporate overlords, seek to take control and eventually put humans out of work. Until that day, however, warehouse and fulfilment center workers find themselves facing hazardous working conditions. Make no mistake, robots are not your friend. When you suffer a workplace injury your only friend is a professional workers’ compensation attorney.
Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law provides financial relief for any Amazon warehouse and fulfilment center worker, whether they are full time, part time, temporary or seasonal. The likelihood of injury at any one of Amazon’s Pennsylvania facilities is statically supported. Experience shows that workers who suffer an injury, often due to the impact of robots, frequently fail to report an injury in a timely manner. It is critical that you understand the dangers of your workplace and your legal rights.
AMAZON WAREHOUSES ARE DANGEROUS
Amazon has the dubious distinction of being singled out as a dangerous place to work. Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) disclosed that Amazon warehouses and fulfillment centers are nearly twice as dangerous for workers than competitor’s facilities. A more recent report by the Strategic Operating Center (SOC), a coalition of four labor unions representing over 4 million workers, exposes that Amazon facilities with robots have a higher rate of worker injuries than facilities without robots. SOC’s analysis is that Amazon’s robots maximize speed, resulting in a higher rate of worker injury.
Speed is only one factor in the human-robot faceoff. Amazon workers must also contend with heavy objects placed by robots on top of the eight-foot-high stacks. On a more positive note for humans, Wired magazine recently reported that Amazon’s robots are “not yet capable of doing the most challenging, and important, work inside its fulfillment centers: picking the many products stored on its shelves. They’re simply not smart enough.” Nevertheless, what makes matters worse is the serious harmful implications of the robot/human interaction. As “Wired” discovered, the proximity can be dangerous at times robots must be kept away from human workers. Clearly, the robots create a hazardous workplace condition.
With a culture centered on speed and productivity, Amazon leads the warehouse industry in worker injuries. The SOC analysis comparing Amazon injury rates to that of its nearest competitor, Walmart, reveals that Amazon warehouses were far more dangerous. Amazon warehouses in Pennsylvania reported 7.2 serious incidents for every 100 employees working full time for a year. By comparison, non-Amazon warehouses in Pennsylvania had a serious injury rate of 3.9 per 100 full-time workers in the same period. Hazardous workplace conditions at Amazon warehouse and fulfillment centers cannot be disputed.
AMAZON’S GROWING WAREHOUSE PRESENCE IN PHILADELPHIA REGION
Robots inside Amazon facilities is only half the story. Worsening the already dangerous situation for workers is Amazon’s expansion in Pennsylvania. Amazon already has a significant presence in Pennsylvania with over 50 warehouses, fulfillment and distribution centers dotting the state’s seven counties, including Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, Berks, Lancaster, Bucks, and Union counties. In other words, Amazon is everywhere, employing many thousands of Pennsylvanians. Amazon is surging their warehouse and fulfillment presence in the Philadelphia region as part of an I-95 regional strategy to utilize this corridor to move goods both north and south. Amazon uses the region wisely with the gigantic facilities out in Easton and Robbinsville with smaller “final-mile” delivery centers more centrally located in King of Prussia and South Philadelphia.
This expansion means two things for Amazon workers, injuries, and potential worker’s comp claims. First, Amazon’s statewide expansion, driven recently by pandemic demands, is not only counted in numbers of locations. Their latest $250 million dollar flagship facility can be seen as things to come for Pennsylvania. Spanning over a million square feet and reaching five stories high, this newest warehouse personifies the Amazon mantra – bigger is better. With increased size comes more workers and more robots. With thousands of additional robots significantly outnumbering human workers, the probability of injuries and worker’s compensation claims obviously increases. Second, Amazon will require more and more employees to work these facilities. Amazon currently has 25,000 full and part-time works in Pennsylvania and as these new facilities come online, that workforce will grow. These welcomed jobs, however, signal the need for vigilance when it comes to workplace hazards and aggressive protection of workers’ rights, including workers’ comp claims.
WORKER INJURIES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION RIGHTS
Employees need to be aware that when hurt in a workplace accident, they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, even if they are employed temporarily, part-time, or seasonally. Amazon workers who suffer injuries are entitled, under Pennsylvania law, to two thirds of their wages and medical expenses. In addition, they may also receive retraining and family benefits. Some of the most common Amazon workplace injuries include:
- Repetitive stress to the back, neck, and hands
- Ruptured discs
- Muscle damage
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Head and spine injuries
- Broken bones
- Heart attacks
- Catastrophic injury
HOW TO RECOVER WORKERS’ COMP BENEFITS IN AN AMAZON ACCIDENT
It is essential for employees to follow all Amazon workplace requirements if injured on the job. Compliance with timely reporting of job-related injuries is critical as Amazon frequently denies responsibility or minimizes benefits unjustly. After seeking medical attention, engaging the advice and representation of a seasoned workers’ compensation attorney comes next. There is no reason to delay and no reason to go it alone.
Individuals injured in an Amazon accident do not need to prove fault for their injuries or illness. This is because workers’ compensation benefits are a “no fault” system. As a result, employees will need to:
- Prove the injuries or illness was caused by employment
- Submit a timely claim to an employer (manager or supervisor)
- File a timely claim with the workers’ comp carrier
- Comply with all requests for medical examinations, documentation, and other workers’ comp carrier questions, and
- Follow medical recommendations of the workers’ compensation physician or treating physician once you can use your own doctor
Robots and AI are here to stay. Unfortunately, so is Amazon’s culture of railroading loyal workers hurt while producing profit for the company. Unfortunately, this is business as usual for Amazon. Fighting this aspect of Amazon’s culture is the only way to change the dire statistics. However, the battles between robots and people, workplace conditions and injuries are not for the worker to shoulder alone. Workers’ compensation claims are the protection to make sure injured Amazon workers – from Harrisburg to Scranton to Lebanon – are made whole after suffering a workplace injury.
Our workers’ compensation lawyers in Philadelphia, PA, at Larry Pitt & Associates are not afraid to go up against Amazon and its workers’ comp carrier. We have over 40 years of experience handling personal injury and workers’ compensation claims throughout Pennsylvania. If you have been injured in an Amazon warehouse or Amazon distribution center, you may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits. Learn what your rights are by calling (888)-PITT-LAW or (877) 748-8529 or by sending us a message on our easy-to-use contact us box available here.