Amazon partners with National Safety Council to address workplace injuries

A recent report found that the rate of workplace injuries at Amazon fulfillment centers was nearly double the industry standard.

Amazon will be working with the National Safety Council to improve the safety of its workers, announcing a five year deal with the organization that will seek to create new ways of preventing musculoskeletal disorders. Amazon donated $12 million dollars to the organization in advance of the deal. 

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The company has faced significant backlash for internal reports showing that warehouse injuries had risen every year since 2016. In September, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting obtained internal records from 150 Amazon fulfillment centers that showed more than 14,000 serious injuries throughout 2019 and nearly eight serious injuries per 100 employees.

According to Reveal, these numbers are almost double what is standard for the rest of the packaging industry, and the report included accusations from doctors that the numbers were even higher because some workers had been told not to report injuries. The numbers were noticeably higher in factories that were more automated than others, Reveal found. 

But on Thursday, Amazon said in a statement that it had been working with the National Safety Council for months to address musculoskeletal disorders. The pact will involve conducting research as well as inventing new technology and processes, according to Amazon. 

An advisory council will be created and will include corporations, researchers, safety experts, and others. The group will examine different ways to address musculoskeletal disorders and coordinate with international groups on best methods. 

Amazon also plans to use AI, machine learning, and other technology in the effort. The company will be offering a slate of grants and incubators for college students and experts who may have ideas on how to reduce workplace injuries. 

Heather MacDougall, Amazon's vice president of worldwide workplace health and safety, said the National Safety Council has a long history of advancing safe practices in the workplace and that the collaboration was another leg of the company's goal of becoming a safer workplace. 

Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, said in a statement that the partnership will help them "solve problems that people face every day so they can live their fullest lives." 

But when pressed by The Washington Post, Martin admitted that the organization would have no role in keeping Amazon accountable for the workplace injuries that are reported, telling the newspaper it was not their responsibility.