Warehouse workers in Texas and around the country have some of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that fatalities among warehouse workers doubled between 2015 and 2017, and injuries are now as common in warehouses and distribution centers as they are on farms. Most workplace safety experts blame these worrying trends on the deployment of autonomous warehouse machinery like driverless pickup trucks and robots and the breakneck pace that retailers like Amazon demand of their workers.
Amazon processes about 4,000 orders every minute, and the Portland-based online retail giant is just one of dozens of companies that have ramped up their warehouse and distribution operations in recent years. This has led to warehouse work becoming more repetitive and monotonous, which greatly increases accident risks. Consumers tend to be very price-sensitive when they shop online, and retailers seeking to protect their margins invest far more heavily in modernization than they do in safety.
Unloading warehouse deliveries is often hurried as workers with quotas to fill rush to get back to sorting and processing orders, which can leave walkways and aisles cluttered with boxes and packaging materials in violation of OSHA regulations. The solution to the problem is better training and a focus on safety over performance. Experts say retailers must learn that the costs associated with an injured worker outweigh the money saved by ignoring workplace safety issues.
Workers’ compensation programs were put into place to ensure that the financial needs of injured workers are met and to protect employers from personal injury lawsuits. However, litigation is allowed when workplace injuries were caused by negligence so severe that serious harm became inevitable. Attorneys with experience in this area could suggest filing such a lawsuit as juries may award punitive in addition to compensatory damages when employers acted with gross negligence.