Amazon warehouse workers filed a complaint with Cal/OSHA during extreme summer temperatures. Workers cited lack of shade, access to water.
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – In groundbreaking citations, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, cited Amazon five times including two serious violations for endangering workers in the high heat. (Read the KSBD CalOSHA Heat Citations.)
Last summer, after weeks of scorching temperatures and poor safety protections, workers who are members of the Inland Empire Amazon Workers United (IEAWU) at the Amazon KSBD air hub in San Bernardino filed a complaint with the state agency. Cal/OSHA immediately opened an investigation conducting multiple on-site inspections and interviews with workers.
Cal/OSHA substantiated the majority of workers’ concerns, finding that outdoor workers did not have adequate access to drinking water or shade nor were supervisors and employees adequately trained to keep workers safe in the heat.
“We saw that Amazon was more concerned with loading and unloading the planes as fast as possible than with our safety,” said Regina Herrmann, who works on the ramp at the Amazon air hub. “We work out on the tarmac without enough shade and sometimes without enough water. Last summer was scary. It got so hot and we did not always have enough water to drink or time to let our bodies cool down. We sometimes had to crouch or stand under the planes for shade. We knew we had to do something before someone was seriously injured.”
In the citation, Cal/OSHA investigators wrote: “The employer utilized the shadow under the Boeing 767-300 as shade in the ramp area for employees to take their preventable cool-down rest. The employees only stand and are not able to rest and sit in a normal posture while under the aircraft for preventive cool-down rest.”
Daily temperatures in San Bernardino are increasingly over 90 and even 100°F. Last July the temperature reached as high as 106°F on July 25. Ramp workers at the San Bernardino air hub are regularly exposed to this extreme heat working outside on the tarmac, often in the blazing sun. Inside the warehouse, workers also complained about hazardous conditions with poor air circulation and very strenuous physical workloads.
The citations come after workers with IEAWU have repeatedly called for safe working conditions from Amazon during high heat. Workers have organized multiple delegations to Amazon management to demand better protections for their safety, including shaded areas with seating for everyone working outside, consistent heat break practices, and the right to take preventative cool-down breaks as needed. In 2021, IEAWU documented extremely high temperatures at KSBD and demanded better protections. They won some improvements, including new break areas and fans in some indoor areas, but after seeing inconsistencies and dangerous conditions during the recent heat wave, workers are taking action again to protect themselves.
“It takes a tremendous amount of courage to stand up to a company as large and as powerful as Amazon. Workers in San Bernardino did that and they won,” said Tim Shadix, attorney and legal director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, which assisted the workers with the complaint. “Their actions will have a positive impact on the health and safety of thousands more people, “On its own Amazon was failing to provide these basic protections for workers against the heat, but workers at the air hub used their power to hold this behemoth accountable.”
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About the WWRC
The Warehouse Worker Resource Center is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), organization founded in 2011 dedicated to improving working conditions in the warehouse industry in Southern California. We focus on education, advocacy and action to change poor working conditions in the largest warehousing hub in the country.