A devastating twister struck an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois in December 2021. The incident left 6 people dead and 1 hospitalized raising issues about workplace safety. More than 40,000 vets and military spouses are currently employed by the giant retailer. It also pledged to hire over 100,000 former service staff and spouses by 2024. But just how safe are workplace conditions in the US?
Consequences of Poor Conditions at the Place of Work
Employee safety is vital to keep the workforce healthy, happy, and productive. When the site is not secured, accidents and falls can occur that lead to injuries and even deaths. Staff can go through pain and suffering, experience low morale, and perform poorly. An employee has the option to seek the services of a personal injury lawyer in Austin or in the place where the accident occurred to seek compensation for negligence. Hence, it is in the interest of employers to provide a safe physical environment by creating a workspace that is well-lit, free of hazards, and has adequate room to move.
When accidents like the tornado strike at the Amazon warehouse happens, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opens a workplace safety investigation. It does this on all workplace fatality incidents. Amazon said that it is ‘supporting OSHA.’ It also assured that workers and their families will be helped. Supply chain consultant Marc Wulfraat says that the affected warehouse appears standard for the industry. An Amazon spokesperson also confirmed that the building was constructed according to code. The Governor, however, mentioned that it is possible current codes are not adequate to respond to the dangers of devastating natural calamities. He said that updating the code will be investigated.
Overall Picture in the US
Fatal work injuries are declining in America from 5,333 in 2019 to 4,764 in 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Worker deaths are also going down from a high of 30 fatalities a day in 1970 to 15 in 2019. The creation of OSHA paved the way for the right of workers to a safe workplace that is free of hazards. Businesses must comply with federal regulations and allow inspectors to check their facilities. In effect, the agency helped in improving the work conditions of millions of Americans preventing deaths and injuries.
However, according to a New York Times report, progress has slowed down. OSHA’s work is limited by several factors. One is that the enforcement staff is small preventing the agency from carrying out visits to all workplaces. Furthermore, regulations take a long time before they are finalized. Fines for serious OSHA violations are not high enough while the criminal charge for the work-attributed death of an employee is not a felony, just a misdemeanor. In short, there are still many things that the agency can do to improve the conditions of veteran and American workers.
Safety at the place of work is a key concern for every employee including veterans. Without occupational health and safety, accidents and injuries will occur reducing efficiency and productivity.