Amazon faces no fines or other penalties after a warehouse collapse in Illinois that killed six workers during a tornado. CNBC has called. However, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asked Amazon to review its procedures after discovering issues with its Emergency Response Plan (EAP).
The storm, which swept across six states in December well outside of tornado season, was one of the deadliest in years. Despite tornado warnings from the National Weather Service 36 hours before the event, Amazon continued to operate the warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois. It was in the middle of shift change when the tornado touched down with winds up to 150 MPH and destroyed the south side of the building.
OSHA investigators concluded that Amazon’s severe weather emergency guidelines “meet the minimum safety guidelines for storm shelters.” Because of this, “there isn’t, by our standards, a specific citation that we can issue in light of the actions at Amazon,” OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Doug Parker told reporters.
We make recommendations because there isn’t, by our standards, a specific quote that we can issue given Amazon’s actions.
However, OSHA identified some workplace conditions as “risk factors.” A bullhorn intended to be used to activate shelter-in-place procedures was locked in a cage and inaccessible, and some employees did not recall the location of the designated shelter-in-place site. Additionally, Amazon’s EAP had a section for severe weather emergencies, but it wasn’t customized with specific instructions for the Edwardsville facility. To that end, investigators recommended Amazon take “voluntary” action to address the issues.
An Amazon spokesman said CNBC that it would “carefully consider” the recommendations. “Employees receive emergency training and this training is reinforced throughout the year. OSHA’s investigation has not revealed any violations or grounds for subpoenas, but we are constantly innovating and improving our safety procedures and have already begun conducting additional safety and emergency preparedness drills at our locations and will follow all OSHA recommendations that not yet available to us, check carefully.”
While Amazon avoided penalties from OSHA, it faces a separate investigation in Congress and multiple lawsuits. The House Oversight Committee announced it is investigating Amazon Warehouse security earlier this month, and said it was “trying to fully understand the events leading up to the tragedy at the Amazon facility in Edwardsville.” The company is also facing several lawsuits several injured workers and the family of one of the people killed in the collapse.
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