Jay Greene and Chris Alcantara of the Washington Post win the July Sidney Award for exposing high rates of serious injury at Amazon warehouses by conducting an original analysis of newly released government data.
The Post’s analysis of data from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reveals that workers at Amazon warehouses are more likely to be seriously injured on the job than workers at other retail warehouses.
Amazon warehouses reported 5.9 serious incidents per 100,000 hours worked in 2020, which is nearly double the rate for the industry at large.
Amazon injury rates actually dropped in 2020, perhaps because Amazon suspended its productivity quotas during the pandemic. In 2019, the rate was 7.8 serious incidents per 100,000 hours worked vs. 3.1 for the retail warehouse industry. The most perilous Amazon warehouse, in DuPont, WA, reported a stunning average of 17.9 serious incidents per 100,000 hours since 2017.
Amazon did not dispute the veracity of the OSHA data, nor did the online retailer object to the methods used to calculate injury rates. The underlying data were supplied exclusively to the Post by a coalition of unions known as the Strategic Organizing Center.
Amazon workers, union officials, and some former OSHA officials blame Amazon’s high injury rate on the grueling pace of work. Workers are surveilled at all times and held to punishing productivity quotas. Amazon acknowledges the physical demands of the work, referring to its workers as “industrial athletes” in an internal brochure.
“This analysis shows the toll that Amazon’s relentless pace of work is taking on its warehouse workers,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein. “These numbers reveal the hidden cost of Amazon’s logistical miracle, written on the bodies of its workers.”
Greene is a reporter for The Washington Post who is focused on technology coverage in the Pacific Northwest. He’s the author of “Design Is How It Works,” a book on design and innovation.
Alcantara is a graphics reporter at The Washington Post, using code and data to tell visual stories about business and technology.