Link between robots and higher injury rates in Amazon fulfilment centres

Link between robots and higher injury rates in Amazon fulfilment centres

A report in America’s The Atlantic has revealed that workers in Amazon’s fulfilment warehouses are injured at twice the rate of the national warehouse industry standard, with rates of up to 9.6 per 100 workers, versus the warehouse workplace standard of four per 100.

The statistics from internal injury records from 23 of the warehouses across America also indicate that those warehouses that utilised robots had an adverse effect on employees safety. The records show that most of the warehouses with high injury levels used robots:

  • A Kent, Washington facility that utilizes robots had 292 serious injuries in one year —that’s 13 serious injuries per 100 workers.
  • The serious injury rate of a Tracy, CA warehouse “nearly quadrupled” after it introduced robots five years ago, going from “2.9 per 100 workers in 2015 to 11.3 in 2018.”
  • A factory with robotics in Troutdale, Oregon that opened in 2018 had the highest injury rate of all: 26 serious injuries per 100 workers.

Amazon has defended the statistics, saying that injury numbers are high because it reports them diligently and accurately.

“We would rather over-report and lead in this space for our associates’ safety than optimize for optics,” a spokesperson said.

The report queries a link between warehouses that utilise robotics and those that don’t, posturing that workers may be neglecting their own workplace safety in order to keep up with the next-generation speeds of the robots.

The report also clarifies that while there are high workplace injury rates in the Amazon fulfilment centres that utilise robotics, it doesn’t show causation – only that there is a correlation between workplaces with robots present and higher injury rates.

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