The state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), which oversees workplace safety, has slapped Amazon with $1,870 in fines for coronavirus-related safety violations. The Los Angeles Times reports that over the course of several months beginning in May, investigators with the agency found that two Amazon warehouses in Southern California – one in Eastvale and one in Hawthorne – failed to mitigate workers’ potential exposure to the novel coronavirus because they failed to provide effective safety training to employees.
The citations dated Oct. 6 state that workers at these facilities were not aware of key elements in the training materials including sanitation of workstations and frequently touched objects in the workplace. Cal/OSHA investigated conditions at the Amazon delivery center in Hawthorne and the fulfillment center in Eastvale after employees called for a state investigation into their working conditions.
Allegations of Poor Working Conditions
The complaints allege Amazon did not properly promote social distancing and did not stop operations to clean and disinfect parts of the facilities where infected workers had spent their shifts. Amazon also failed to broadly inform workers about confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a May 1 complaint. In one case, workers at the Hawthorne delivery center learned that an employee had died of COVID-19 in March from media reports instead of from Amazon, the complaint stated.
A worker at the Hawthorne facility said she and others work in a crowded environment where hot, tired workers pull packages from a conveyor belt while the company tracks their productivity rates. The worker, who has asthma, said she and other workers sometimes take their masks off for a brief time duration. However, the Times reports that the Amazon fines, $935 for each facility, are the smallest an employer has received from Cal/OSHA for a COVID-19 violation. Since Cal/OSHA issued its first coronavirus-related citation Aug. 25, it has fined more than 20 companies a total of about $700,000.
Workers have the right to a safe and healthy work environment. Workers who are providing essential services especially are more vulnerable and need to be not only provided with personal protective equipment but also be trained on how to use them and how to follow safety measures in the workplace.
If you suspect that your employer is not taking adequate measures to protect you, it is important that you contact the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and an experienced California employment attorney who can help protect your rights. If you have contracted the coronavirus as a result of your employer’s negligence, you may be able to seek compensation for your losses including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, and pain and suffering.