Amazon Faces Scrutiny, Fine in Two Worker Deaths in Two Different States

11.29.2017


By Liz Carey

Plainfield, IN (WorkersCompensation.com) – Retail giant Amazon is facing an investigation in one state, and fines in another, over two warehouse worker deaths within a week of each other. 

On Sept. 19, Devan Michael Shoemaker, 28, was killed at the Amazon warehouse in Carlisle, PA, when he was run over by a truck. Pennsylvania State Police said Shoemaker was loosening a kingpin between a truck and its trailer when the driver attempted to move the truck in order for Shoemaker to grease the kingpin connection under the truck’s trailer. Shoemaker was crushed under the truck.

On Sept. 24, Phillip Terry, 59, was killed at the Amazon warehouse in Plainfield, IN, when his head was crushed by a forklift. Terry was doing maintenance on the forklift when it fell on him, causing multiple injuries to his head and torso, including skull fractures and multiple brain injuries.

In late October, the Indiana Dept. of Labor fined Amazon $28,000 and ordered them to provide safety training at the Indiana facility. The Indiana Dept. of Labor (DOL) said the accident was due to inadequate training and a failure to follow proper safety procedures in the Amazon warehouse. In its four-charge complaint, the Indiana DOL cited failure to train employees on lock-out tag-out procedures, as well as failure to follow those procedures.

Molly Deuberry, spokesperson for the Indiana DOL, told WorkersCompensation.com that Amazon had met with the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) in a scheduled conference on Monday, Nov. 20. However, no agreement was reached, she said, and Amazon has filed a formal contest to the department’s findings. 

This isn’t the first complaint the department has had with Amazon, she said.

“IOSHA has 3 complaints at the 800 Perry Road facility and 1 complaint at the 718 Airtech Parkway facility, both located in Plainfield, Indiana,” she said.

In an email interview with Shevaun Brown, regional operations PR manager with Amazon, the company had no comment on the Indiana incident.

“We do not comment on ongoing investigations,” Brown said. 

OSHA is also investigating the death of Shoemaker at the Pennsylvania plant.

Since 2013, five Amazon employees have died in warehouse incidents. OSHA has cited the company, and the temporary agencies to staff its facilities, for safety violations. 

“Getting consumer goods dropped right on your doorstep is nice, but who is paying the price?” asked Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) told Environmental Health and Safety Today. “There is a disturbing pattern of preventable deaths at Amazon. Two workers have been crushed to death by forklifts, one dragged into a conveyor belt, another crushed by a pallet loader and one run over by a truck. The company monitors every move of both permanent and temporary employees to meet intense demands for high-speed delivery. But is it paying enough attention to workplace safety?”

Other fatalities include: 

Ronald Smith, 57, was killed at an Avenel, NJ warehouse on Dec. 4, 2013. A temporary worker, Smith was dragged and crushed by a conveyor belt. OSHA cited five companies at the plant for serious violations, including Genco, the contractor responsible for operating the facility, and four temporary staffing agencies. 

Jody Rhoads, 52, was killed at a Carlisle, PA warehouse on June 1, 2014. The woman was killed when machinery she was using to move pallets crashed into shelving and pinned her. The facility is the same facility Shoemaker was killed in.

On Nov. 2, 2013, an unidentified man was killed at an Amazon warehouse facility in Fernley, NV, after the forklift Amazon was renting fell on him. According news reports, the man, who didn’t work for Amazon and was not identified, was loading the forklift onto a flatbed truck. However, he failed to secure the forklift, and when he started to lower it onto the truck bed, it leaned and fell on top of him.

According to Amazon, the company has 800 safety and health professionals at its fulfillment centers across the country, and touts some 7 million safety checks across the organization each year. Amazon said, on its website, that all of its facilities focus on continuous improvement and are always innovating to enhance safety.” And, all new Amazon employees attend “safety school,” and receive ergonomic assessments, the company said.


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