The Labor Department is ordering Amazon to review its practices of how the tech giant responds to severe weather emergencies after deficiencies were found during a probe into the deadly collapse of a company warehouse in Illinois that was hit by a tornado.
The facility in Edwardsville was destroyed on December 10, 2021, as a tornado moved through the region. Six employees, mostly independent contractors, were killed and another employee was injured. The incident prompted criticism from elected officials who said Amazon had inadequate safety protocols in place and a federal probe led by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was launched.
Despite the flaws found in Amazon’s safety procedures, the company will not face any penalties.
In a Tuesday letter to a warehouse manager at the warehouse, OSHA investigators said they discovered that megaphones used to activate shelter-in-place procedures during the weather emergency were locked in a cage and inaccessible. In addition, employees did not know where the designated location to shelter-in-place was and never recalled participating in shelter-in-place drills, the letter said.
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Workers were told by Amazon managers to go to a restroom 10 minutes prior to the tornado touching down, according to investigators.
“Some employees were unaware the designated tornado shelter was the restroom located in the northern portion of the building and instead took shelter in the restroom located in the southern portion of the building,” the letter said.
In a statement to FOX Business, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said “the storm in Edwardsville last fall was a tragedy and our teams on the ground continue to support our employees and the broader community as they work to recover.”
“The tornado that hit our delivery station was extreme and very sudden, with winds that were much like the force of a category 4 hurricane, and we believe our team did the right thing, moving people to shelter as soon as the warning was issued, “she said. “Our buildings — including the Edwardsville delivery station — have emergency plans that identify exit routes and shelter areas. Employees receive emergency response training, and that training is reinforced throughout the year.”
She added that OSHA’s investigation did not find any violations or causes for citations, but that the company is “constantly looking to innovate and improve our safety measures and have already begun conducting additional safety and emergency preparedness drills at our sites.”
Investigators have made three recommendations: Making warning devices accessible, ensuring employees and trained and participating in drills and preparing a site-specific plan for disasters.
Nantel said Amazon “carefully consider any OSHA recommendation that we have not already.”
Amazon is not required to respond to the letter.
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