All too often, the biggest corporations in the U.S. seem immune to any kind of pushback from employees, the public, regulators and even lawmakers when it comes to workplace safety. Certainly, workers can file anonymous complaints and inspection requests with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but there is often little else that can be done proactively to keep unsafe working conditions from leading to harm.
Thankfully, a number of high-profile OSHA investigations may be turning the tide on that frustrating reality. The public’s response to the most high-profile of these investigations is perhaps best summed up by the February 2023 Mother Jones headline “OSHA Is (Finally) Investigating the Hell Out of Amazon.”
What is going on?
Over the last several years, Amazon warehouse conditions have been the subject of numerous minor investigations. The company has been fined repeatedly for subjecting its workers to an unreasonable risk of harm, including accidents, repetitive strain and long hours that exacerbate both of these other risks.
The fact that Amazon has been permitted to largely get away with operating in this manner has resulted in significant consequences for many of its close to 1 million workers. At long last, OSHA has started investigating Amazon’s warehouse operations across multiple states in what is being described as a “historic” probe that has the potential to effect real change.
By elevating its investigative efforts in this manner, OSHA will hopefully help many workers to better understand their rights and inspire them to exercise those rights in the event that they are working in unsafe conditions, have suffered harm or both.