OSHA probes Amazon’s fatal warehouse collapse

Date: 2021-12-13 22:29:39

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is launching a probe into the fatal collapse of an Amazon facility in Illinois after it was hit by a tornado, the agency said Monday. 

OSHA has had compliance officers at the complex in Edwardsville, Ill., since Saturday to provide assistance, according to agency spokesperson Scott Allen.

Six people died and one was transferred to a regional hospital after a tornado hit the 1.1-million-square-foot delivery center on Friday, according to officials. 

OSHA has six months to complete its investigation, including issuing citations and proposing monetary penalties if safety or health violations are found, Allen said. 

An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the probe. 

After news of the six fatalities broke, spokesperson Kelly Nantel said the company is “deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, IL.” 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the tornado. We also want to thank all the first responders for their ongoing efforts on scene. We’re continuing to provide support to our employees and partners in the area,” Nantel said in a statement. 

Worker groups including the Athena Coalition and Warehouse Workers for Justice have criticized Amazon’s handling of the situation, calling for an outside investigation. 

“Given Amazon’s history having workers work through emergency conditions across the country, as well as normal disregard for worker safety, we require immediate answers from @Amazon,” the Athena Coalition tweeted. 

The National Weather Services issued a tornado warning at 8:06 p.m., about 23 minutes before the tornado hit Edwardsville. The storm prediction center had issued a tornado watch for Madison County, which contains Edwardsville, around 5:20 p.m., according to Mark Britt, a meteorologist at the National Weather Services based in St. Louis. 

Amazon spokesperson Alisa Caroll said the onsite team at the facility “immediately moved to ensure all team members went to the designated shelter in place locations” when the tornado warning came in from local authorities. 

The Hill pressed Carroll for details as to how many workers were on site at the time and how many made it to shelter in place, but the spokesperson did not immediately respond with the information. 

The station opened in July 2020 and employs about 190 people across multiple shifts, according to Amazon.

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