Nearly half of Amazon’s employees in the U.S. have reported sustaining injuries at the company’s famously fast-paced warehouses, with some workers reporting they have to take unpaid time off from their jobs to recover, a new survey shows.
According to a national study from the University of Illinois Chicago’s Center for Urban Economic Development (CUED), 41% of the e-commerce giant’s workers have gotten hurt on the job. Of those employees, 69% had to take unpaid time off to recover from pain or exhaustion in the past month, researchers found.
Amazon workers’ self-reported injury rate is nearly six times higher than what some previous reports have found, according to the survey.
“The survey data indicate that how Amazon designs its processes — including extensive monitoring and the rapid pace of work — are contributing to a considerable physical and mental health toll, including injuries, burnout and exhaustion,” Beth Gutelius, research director at CUED and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.
The survey, which was taken between April and August of this year, includes responses from more than 1,400 current Amazon workers across 451 facilities in 42 states. Those respondents answered nearly 100 questions on a range of topics, including work intensity, their workplace’s health and safety protocols, and Amazon’s monitoring practices.
Amazon uses an electronic system to track its warehouse workers’ productivity, using specialized software, handheld scanning devices and other tools to track the time it takes employees to complete their duties.
According to the survey, that system contributes to the pressure some workers feel to work faster, making them more likely to suffer injuries or experience burnout, the researchers said.
Previously collected data has also shown that the rate of injuries at Amazon’s warehouses is higher than industry averages. In 2022, one report found that there were, according to data Amazon submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That number is more than double the injury rate at all non-Amazon warehouses, which reported 3.2 serious injuries for every 100 workers.
Amazon said CUED’s findings provide an incomplete picture of the company’s commitment to worker safety.
“This is not a ‘study’ — it’s a survey done on social media by groups with an ulterior motive,” Amazon spokesperson Maureen Lynch Vogel said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. “The data that we publish each year and submit to OSHA… shows that rates in our buildings have improved significantly, and we’re slightly above the average in some areas and slightly below the average in others.”
Among other steps Amazon has taken to reduce worker injuries, the company teamed with the National Safety Council to help develop best practices; added adjustable tables in warehouses to minimize bending; and redesigned conveyors so workers don’t have to reach as far to pick up items. The company is also implementing robotic technologies that help workers handle packages, cutting down on repetitive tasks.
In the study, Gutelius and co-author Sanjay Pinto note that Amazon has taken measures to prioritize the safety of its workers. Still, many workers suffer injuries anyway, according to Gutelius, with those who struggle to keep up with the company’s fast pace of operations more likely to be hurt on the job.