Report: Amazon’s Safety Training Plans Scuttled Due to Time Concerns; Amazon Disputes Accusations

Seattle, WA (WorkersCompensation.com) – Plans for Amazon to add enhanced hands-on safety training for newly hired drivers prior to the holiday delivery season last year were thrown out because of time, a new report from ProPublica says.

According to the report, in 2018, executives at Amazon wanted to institute a safe driving training process to curtail accidents by delivery drivers. But the plan was put on hold in order to meet company goals of getting holiday packages to customers on time, the report said.

Managers hoping to address a number of fatal crashes involving Amazon delivery vans over the course of five years suggested a defensive driving program that would assess drivers and teach them safe on-road practices.

But with billions of packages being delivered in the course of six weeks, adding a five-day training program for drivers would keep them off the road, and the program was axed. Drivers were out on the road almost immediately after being hired, the report said.

“We chose to not have on-road practical training because it was a bottleneck” to putting drivers in delivery trucks, Propublica said a senior manager wrote in a memo regarding the training.

Amazon has come under increased scrutiny as its business operation delivers millions of packages per day. A push to decrease delivery times from two days to one day has led to serious safety concerns, critics have said. Drivers are expected to deliver up to 300 packages a day, leading some to skip meals and bathroom breaks, as well as take dangerous shortcuts. Earlier this year, Amazon faced backlash from labor organizations that said Amazon mistreats its workers.

ProPublica and BuzzFeed said a look into internal documents and interviews with company insiders found that Amazon officials ignored or dismissed evidence that drivers were overloaded and lacked the necessary training to stay safe.

Since 2015, delivery drivers — both employees of the company and drivers working for contractors who provide third-party delivery service — have been involved in 10 fatal crashes; including one, in 2014, that took the life of Amazon’s former chief financial officer.

Joy Covey, the first CFO for Amazon, was riding her bike in her San Francisco suburb, when a delivery driver for OnTrac, a delivery company contracted by Amazon, turned in her path and struck her. Covey died at the scene.

According to the latest ProPublica report, Amazon said it provided more than 1 million hours of safety training to its more than 250,000 employees and its delivery contractors. The company also said it spent more than $55 million on “safety improvement projects.”

While investigations this year into the company show that the drivers delivering for Amazon have been involved in more than 60 crashes that have led to serious injuries, the company would not disclose how many drivers are injured each year in automobile accidents.

“This is another attempt by ProPublica and Buzzfeed to push a preconceived narrative that is simply untrue,” said Rena Lunak, spokesperson for Amazon, in an email interview. “Nothing is more important to us than safety. We are proud of our delivery operations and their focus on safety, training, auditing and empowering the small businesses that globally delivered more than three billion packages this year.

“Every day tens of thousands of people are working hard to improve our operations by implementing new programs and technologies to further enhance the safety of our operations,” Lunak continued. “In 2018, across the U.S. we provided more than one million hours of safety training to employees, DSP owners and drivers, and invested more than $55 million on safety improvement projects. Drivers in Amazon’s last mile operations have traveled more than 800 million miles this year, and their on-road safety record is better than the national benchmark as measured by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unfortunately, statistically at this scale, traffic incidents have occurred and will occur again, but these are exceptions, and we will not be satisfied until we achieve zero incidents across our delivery operations.”

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