Amazon warehouse workers hospitalized after bear spray can ruptured

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

An accident in a New Jersey Amazon fulfillment center has landed 24 workers in the hospital after a robot punctured a can of bear repellant Wednesday.

The employees were taken to five hospitals to be treated for exposure to concentrated capsaicin. Capsaicin is the organic chemical that makes chili peppers hot and is the active ingredient in pepper spray. ABC News notes, one of the workers was listed in critical condition. An additional 30 employees were treated at the scene by first responders.

Robbinsville Township communications and public information officer John Nalbone said the incident happened when “an automated machine accidentally punctured a 9-ounce bear repellent can.”

Amazon issued a statement Wednesday night stating that employee safety was its number one concern.

Today at our Robbinsville fulfillment center, a damaged aerosol can dispensed strong fumes in a contained area of the facility. The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area have been relocated to a safe place and employees experiencing symptoms are being treated onsite. As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment.

All of the impacted employees have been or are expected to be released from the hospital within the next 24 hours. The safety of our employees is always our top priority, and a full investigation is already underway. We’d like to thank all of the first responders who helped with today’s incident.

The warehouse was evacuated and vented. Nalbone said that no danger was imposed on the surrounding communities as the fumes dissipated. Workers were given the okay to return to work later Wednesday evening.

The accident has brought questions into Amazon’s safety practices and the use of robots in the workplace.

“Amazon’s automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum told ABC. “This is another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this. The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people’s lives at risk.”

Amazon’s fulfillment center workers are not unionized, and the company has been criticized for unsafe working conditions and low pay both here and overseas. The Guardian states that in the United Kingdom alone, EMTs were dispatched to Amazon warehouses at least 600 times between 2015 and 2017.

Business Insider reported back in April that the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health listed Amazon as one of its “dirty dozen” companies. The report notes that seven Amazon employees have died on or near the job since 2013.

Amazon maintains that it has strict safety guidelines and denies poor working conditions.

Lead image by Scott Olson — Getty Images

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stewi0001

TS Evangelist
Platinum
“Amazon’s automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum told ABC. “This is another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this. The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people’s lives at risk.”
Really... I mean really... I just can't even begin to convey what I really want to say on this...
 

PcePce

TS Enthusiast
Yes, humans, it was only an accident. Nothing to see here.

Seriously though, safety has nothing to do with why Amazon is targeted by media outlets, bureaucrats and commie shills. It's all about the money.
 

Vicmar

TS Rookie
“Amazon’s automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum told ABC. “This is another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this. The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people’s lives at risk.”
Really... I mean really... I just can't even begin to convey what I really want to say on this...
The guy acts as if human error hasn't caused far most accidents. What an *****. Robots are safer and more productive. I was touring and Amazon FC once and I watched a picker handle 500 units in an hour. It was amazing.

For those unaware, distribution pickers in a well designed manual space usually do 60-70 picks/hour.
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
All I can say is that I have used this stuff and it does indeed work. Camping in Yellowstone years ago when we had one come into camp and both of us hit him in the face and off he went ..... fortunately we were upwind and even then it had us coughing and wheezing. Also works well for nasty little dogs that come into my yard to poop ..... he won't be back anytime soon either!!! LOL
 
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captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
“Amazon’s automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum told ABC. “This is another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this. The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people’s lives at risk.”

Amazon’s fulfillment center workers are not unionized, and the company has been criticized for unsafe working conditions and low pay both here and overseas"

There are several narratives / subtexts going on here, all of them initiated by separate agendas.

1: Obviously Amazon wants to keep wage costs as low as possible. Hence the use of robots.

2: Sometimes people's injuries are from their own carelessness. Not all obviously, but many. Yet those injury statistics are lumped together, and collectively blamed on the company.

3: A union president is a politician by nature, trying to garner votes, hence members, hence more dues and higher pay for himself in the process. CEOs are paid commensurate with the value of the companies they control, which wouldn't be any different from other types of large organizations.

The AFL-CIO, has had its share of pension fraud and scandal over the years, and can't be considered a terribly righteous entity..Remember Jimmy Hoffa?

FWIW, bear repellent is a more dilute form of pepper spray than your typical self defense offering, but it does come in a larger can.

Employees notoriously like to get paid for doing nothing. Which could obviously contribute to longer time intervals for them to be willing to reenter the building.

As for the employee in, "critical condition", I would think a person would need an underlying physical condition to aggravate the effects of pepper spay to a level which would require hospitalization. I'm pretty sure this person didn't drink the remaining fluid in the can to spare their coworkers unnecessary pain and suffering from further exposure.

And hey, who isn't looking for that cause of action which leads to a comfortable retirement.

Like I said, there's a lot of individual interests, motivations, and jockeying for position going on in this story.
 
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S

senketsu

As for the employee in, "critical condition", I would think a person would need an underlying physical condition to aggravate the effects of pepper spay to a level which would require hospitalization. I'm pretty sure this person didn't drink the remaining fluid in the can to spare their coworkers unnecessary pain and suffering from further exposure.
I also highly doubt 'critical condition'. The police in my city all get pepper sprayed directly in the face as part of their training. I also have seen police directly spray sitting protesters in the face with a stream of the stuff from an industrial size can and they just sat there and took it. Officer was later disciplined FWIW,
 

Kibaruk

TechSpot Paladin
“Amazon’s automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum told ABC. “This is another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this. The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people’s lives at risk.”
This is so yellow that Coldplay almost sued them.
 

Capaill

TS Evangelist
"The safety of our employees is always our top priority"
Translation: If we replaced everyone with robots, this wouldn't have even made the press. Let's get right on that.

A recent episode of Dr Who springs to mind.