Working conditions in Amazon warehouse. Are workers under too much stress?

Photo by toolstop via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by toolstop via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Amazon has featured strongly in the news this week with reports about warehouse workers at its Swansea warehouse being under inordinate amounts of stress. A man secretly filming his work as a picker at the warehouse reported working long shifts, covering long distances on foot (just under 11 miles in one shift in one case), and working under constant stress due to a scanner timing how long it took him to pick each item and beeping if he took too long, and the threat of disciplinary action if he didn’t work at a fast enough rate. However, Amazon has defended the expectations it places on staff and describes worker safety as its ‘number one priority’.

Those working in warehouse operations are subject to a number of job-specific hazards, including:

  • falls from height (e.g. when reaching high shelving);
  • moving and handling heavy or large items;
  • slips, trips, falls;
  • falling objects;
  • operation of lift trucks;
  • traffic movement (e.g. delivery vehicles);
  • risks posed by the use of equipment (e.g. conveyor belts, stretch wrapping machines, etc.).

These aspects are just some of the notable potential hazards that need to be considered by those employing staff to work in warehouse environments in order to keep employees safe, which gives some indication of the complexities of employing staff to do this kind of work.

Regardless of who is right or wrong in the case of the order picker versus Amazon, this story has highlighted the issue of warehouse working, especially in the run-up to Christmas when businesses take on vast swathes of new staff to service demand over the festive season. With order volumes increasing dramatically during the pre-Christmas season, and companies determined not to let customers down for fear of losing face with consumers and stakeholders, it is perhaps not altogether surprising that some businesses lose sight of the importance of looking after the health of staff. Thankfully, the Health for Work Adviceline website is available to offer professional guidance on work health issues in order to help organisations avoid making the mistake of neglecting the health of staff.

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