Amazon warehouse workers must become ‘industrial athletes’, says a leaked company pamphlet that compares harsh working conditions to an intense CrossFit regiment.
‘Some positions will walk up to 13 miles a day, while some positions will have a total of 20,000 pounds lifted before they complete their shift,’ according to the Tulsa, Oklahoma wellness pamphlet, which was obtained by Motherboard.
‘Just like an athlete who trains for an event, industrial athletes need to prepare their bodies to be able to perform their best while doing your best.’
Amazon breaks the program into six categories: nutrition, hydration, sleep, good footwear, ergonomic work behavior and injury prevention specialists.
The company recommends its workers eat 400 calories every hour, drink two liters of water throughout the day and ‘buy shoes at the end of the day when your feet are swollen to allow for plenty of room when they swell during work.’
Former Amazon employee Christian Smalls at a protest outside of an Amazon warehouse during the coronavirus outbreak May 1, 2020
Amazon warehouse workers must become ‘industrial athletes’ who ‘walk up to 13 miles a day’ or lift a total of ‘20,000 pounds in a shift’
Calorie intake and hydration are essential, according to Amazon, yet many workers told Motherboard they’re often unable to take bathroom breaks because of the unrelenting pace.
Motherboard published its June 1 article around same time the U.S. Labor department released injury data.
The Strategic Organizing Center, a group of the largest labor unions in the country, analyzed the data and found that Amazon workers suffered serious injuries at a rate 80 percent higher than all other companies’ warehouses in 2020.
In 2020, according to OSHA data, there were 5.9 serious injuries for every 100 Amazon warehouse workers that forced the worker to either miss work entirely or be placed on light/restricted duty – compared to 3.3 serious injuries for every 100 workers at non-Amazon warehouses, said the Strategic Organizing Center.
While the causes of the injuries are not listed in by OSHA, Amazon workers and union representatives said part of the blame lies in productivity pressures.
Warehouse workers at Amazon fulfillment centers, sorting centers and delivery stations are pushed to meet hourly rates for stowing, picking and packing items, which some critics say are too difficult and lead to injuries.
In 2020, there were 5.9 serious injuries for every 100 full-time Amazon warehouse employee, nearly double the rate of the serious injuries recorded at non-Amazon warehouses
Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA chief of staff and senior policy adviser, who now works at the worker advocacy group National Employment Law Project, told The Washington Post that the company sets unrealistic targets for employees.
‘The pace of work, and the amount of twisting and turning, is enormous,’ she said. ‘There is a constant pressure to work fast.
But last April, in his final letter to shareholders, CEO Jeff Bezos addressed workplace safety.
‘We don’t set unreasonable performance goals,’ he wrote. ‘We set achievable performance goals that take into account tenure and actual employee performance data.’
In that same letter, he added that the e-commerce company needs ‘to do a better job for our employees’ and vowed to make Amazon the world’s ‘best employer,’ CNBC.com reported.
In a statement to Motherboard, Amazon claimed that the pamphlet was created in error and that it was immediately removed.
Bobby Gosvenor, a former Amazon warehouse employee in Tulsa, however, told Motherboard that he first came across it in November 2020 and that he picked up a physical copy of the pamphlet at the Tulsa warehouse as recently as several weeks ago.
In this photo, Amazon workers and community allies demonstrate during a protest organized by New York Communities for Change and Make the Road New York in front of the Jeff Bezos’ Manhattan residence in New York on December 2, 2020
He said he had concerns about how his job injury was handled, despite the ‘injury prevention specialists’ that the company promotes in its wellness pamphlet.
Gosvenor, who left last year when he was injured, told Motherboard in a separate interview that he was told to ice what turned out to be a herniated disk and take ibuprofen.
‘I was being told to take my muscle relaxers at night, which was grueling during the day because the muscles were just spasming, and I would have to breathe through them, sweat, get nauseated, it was just hurting so bad,’ Gosvenor told Motherboard.
Amazon said the company plans on investing more than $300 million this year in safety projects to protect warehouse workers (pictured)