Congressmen Donald Norcross and Frank Pallone want OSHA to investigate whether Amazon is hiding worker injuries from federal watchdogs. (Edwin J. Torres Governor's Office)
Two of New Jersey’s federal lawmakers are calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate Amazon after a worker died earlier this month at a warehouse in Carteret.
Reps. Donald Norcross and Frank Pallone sent a letter Wednesday to OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor Douglas L. Parker requesting a probe into whether the retail giant engages in conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others, either by discouraging workers from self-reporting their injuries, misclassifying workplace injuries, or other ways.
The letter was the second time the two Democrats urged OSHA to look into Amazon’s record on worker safety. In May, the entire New Jersey congressional delegation sent a similar request after the company reported worker injuries rose 54% from 2020 to 2021 at its warehouses in Garden State.
“It is crucial to ensure that every worker comes home at night the same way they came to work in the morning,” Norcross and Pallone wrote in this week’s letter.
Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias, 42, died in Carteret after he suffered a fatal heart attack July 13 during the Amazon Prime Day sales rush.
Coworkers told the Daily Beast that Frias overheated as he worked in a warehouse that has no air conditioning in the main working area.
An Amazon spokesman denied such claims.
“Our internal investigation has shown that this was not a work-related incident, and instead was related to a personal medical condition,” Amazon spokesman Sam Stephenson said. “OSHA is currently investigating the incident, and, based upon the evidence currently available to us, we fully expect that it will reach the same conclusion.”
When Frias fell ill, Stephenson said, supervisors called 911, an onsite “medical expert” began emergency treatment immediately, and first responders arrived within 16 minutes.
“We are in contact with his family to offer support and are providing counseling resources to employees needing additional care,” he said.
Stephenson did not answer questions about working conditions at the warehouse or about any workplace changes the company made after the worker’s death.
A June report by a worker advocacy group found excessive injuries fueled skyrocketing employee turnover rates in Amazon’s New Jersey warehouses — 124% in 2020, twice the rate of non-Amazon warehouses.
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Amazon warehouses, specifically looking at injuries resulting from workplace hazards, worker rate requirements and the pace of work, and Amazon’s own reporting of on-the-job injuries.
OSHA investigates all worker deaths nationally. A regional OSHA spokesperson confirmed they are investigating the Carteret fatality.
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