Amazon’s Workplace Injuries Continue Rising

Amazon’s Workplace Injuries Continue RisingAlthough former CEO Jeff Bezos once pledged to make Amazon “Earth’s Safest Place to Work,” the company’s warehouse employees were injured twice as often as those employed by rival companies in 2021.

According to a recent study conducted by the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), Amazon workers suffered over 34,000 serious work-related injuries in 2021, twice as many as those sustained at non-Amazon facilities. After Amazon relaxed some of its regulations during the first months of the pandemic, the injury rate at the company’s warehouses increased by 20 percent between 2020 and 2021.

Amazon’s injury rates are nothing new. Last year’s SOC report, Primed for Pain, revealed that Amazon warehouse employees had injury rates dramatically higher than those of its competitors and concluded that the company’s fixation with speed was likely a driving force in its high injury rates. Amazon has made headlines for the dangerous health and safety conditions in its facilities for more than ten years.

Amazon’s workers are not only getting injured more frequently than those working for other companies; they are also sustaining more severe injuries. In 2020, for every 100 Amazon warehouse employees, the company recorded 5.9 serious injuries requiring workers to miss work entirely or be placed on light duty. That same year, Amazon employees were required to miss work due to injury for an average of 43.3 days, a week longer than the average lost time for injured warehouse workers and over two weeks longer than for average workers. In addition, lost time injuries are generally more expensive than light duty cases in terms of workers’ compensation costs.

According to a recent CNET report, injured Amazon warehouse employees often have a difficult time getting benefits after a work-related injury at one of the company’s 800-plus warehouses in North America. Obtaining workers’ compensation benefits can be complicated because many of Amazon’s injured workers don’t even know they’re entitled to them, and some wait months before seeking legal advice, the report stated.

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation is an insurance policy that is purchased by your employer to provide wage loss and medical benefits to employees who are injured on the job. Harrisburg workers injured while in the course and scope of their employment are usually covered under their employer’s policy. Fault for the injury does not need to be established to receive benefits; the worker only needs to show that the injury happened on the job and was associated with the duties they were responsible for performing.

Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act

Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system is intended to protect employees and employers. Employees receive medical treatment and compensation for lost wages connected with work-related injuries and disease, while employers provide for the cost of this coverage in exchange for protection from direct lawsuits brought by injured employees.

Workers’ compensation coverage is mandatory for most Pennsylvania employers, and most employees, including seasonal and part-time workers, are covered under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. Some exceptions are:

  • Volunteers
  • Agricultural laborers
  • Casual employees
  • Domestic workers
  • Employees given a personal religious exemption

Some workers, including federal civilian workers, shipyard and harbor workers, railroad workers, and longshoremen are covered by other types of compensation laws. In addition, certain corporate executive officers may request an exemption from the Act.

An injured worker must report a work-related injury, disease, or illness to an employer or supervisor immediately. The employer must then fill out a First Report of Injury and send it to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Failure to provide notice can delay the receipt of benefits, or they could be denied altogether. Once the employee misses any time from work or obtains medical treatment, the insurance carrier is required to report the injury to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

What warehouse injuries are covered by workers’ compensation?

Any injuries, illnesses, or diseases caused or aggravated by employment are covered under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation program, regardless of the employee’s prior physical condition. Some common types of injuries typically covered include:

  • Trips, slips, and falls
  • Repetitive motion and overexertion injuries
  • Muscle strains
  • Being struck by equipment or falling objects
  • Occupational illnesses
  • Vehicle-related accidents
  • Chemical burns
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments

Injuries caused when an employee violates the law, such as through the illegal use of drugs, are not typically covered under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation program.

What benefits are paid through workers’ compensation in PA?

The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation program provides several types of benefits to injured workers, including:

  • Medical – those injured on the job are entitled to reasonable surgical and medical services provided by a physician or other healthcare provider. Medication, supplies, hospital services, orthopedic appliances, and prostheses are also covered for as long as needed.
  • Lost wages – injured workers may be eligible for lost wage benefits if the injured worker is either 1) totally disabled and unable to work or 2) partially disabled and earning wages lower than their pre-injury earnings.
  • Death benefits – if a work-related injury results in death, the employee’s surviving spouse and dependents may be eligible for benefits.
  • Specific loss benefits – if the injury results in the actual physical loss, permanent loss of the use for all practical intents and purposed, of all or part of a particular part of their body, or the worker suffers a severe and permanent disfigurement of the head, face, or neck, they may receive a specific loss award.

Injured workers in Harrisburg are free to choose their own health care provider to treat their injury unless the employer has a list of six or more physicians or health care providers posted in the workplace. In that case, the worker must visit a provider on the list for a period of 90 days after the first visit. If the worker sees a provider who is not on the list during that period, the insurer might refuse to pay for the treatment provided.

Navigating the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation program can be complex and overwhelming. If you suffered a serious work-related injury and are not sure how to proceed, the skilled Harrisburg workers’ compensation attorneys at KBG Injury Law are ready to help. Contact us or call 717-366-8080 to schedule your free initial consultation today. We maintain additional offices in York, Lancaster, Gettysburg, and Hanover.