Days after workers filed a formal complaint about dangerous working conditions related to extreme heat, state inspectors open a formal investigation.
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – After weeks of scorching temperatures and poor safety protections, workers and members of the Inland Empire Amazon Workers United (IEAWU) at the Amazon KSBD air hub in San Bernardino marched on managers to demand better heat safety protections and filed a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). Cal/OSHA opened an on-site inspection on Friday, July 28.
“I work outside with the planes and the only shade provided to us is under the airplane, or in vans where there’s not enough seating and the A/C is sometimes turned off,” said Cynthia Ayala, an Amazon warehouse worker and member of the IEAWU. “Managers are prioritizing production over our safety. I have seen my coworkers deal with heat illness, and I’ve dealt with it myself. Heat illness shouldn’t be taken so lightly when it makes you fear for your safety thinking you’ll be next. ”
Daily high temperatures in San Bernardino have been over 100°F, peaking 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, many workers also experience hazardous conditions with poor air circulation and very strenuous physical workloads.
“Workers inside are so easily forgotten during this heat. Amazon’s main focus is production. Safety is not the priority until it’s too late,” said Daniel Rivera, an Amazon warehouse worker and member of the IEAWU. “I have suffered nose bleeds while working in the summer in the warehouse. Managers didn’t do anything and the on-site first aid team brushed me off. When Cal/OSHA was at the warehouse I saw managers acting with urgency about our health. I’ve never seen that before and I have been here for two years.”
In two delegations to management last week, workers with IEAWU demanded 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. Workers reported similar concerns in their complaint to Cal/OSHA, including the inadequate provision of shade, cool water, and training on heat illness prevention.
“California law clearly requires employers to provide workers in outdoor areas with shaded rest areas and a sufficient supply of cool water,” said Tim Shadix, attorney and legal director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, which assisted the workers with the complaint. “Employers must also allow and encourage employees to take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade any time they feel the need to in order to protect themselves from overheating. Failing to follow these requirements properly places workers in grave danger of heat illness.”
Last summer, workers with 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.
“Amazon has been promising us shade structures outside for months but we still don’t have them. When Cal/OSHA was here, managers staffed up crews to give us more heat breaks and kept the water coolers practically overflowing,” said employee and IEAWU member Rex Evans. “That lasted all of 24 hours before it was mostly back to business as usual. It shows Amazon can do better when they want to and it’s shameful that they don’t. We should have those extra heat breaks and relief crews every day when it’s this hot.”
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.