As much as we may fear that they could take our jobs in future, robots are generally considered a good thing when t comes to process automation and the possibility of avoiding accidents. This is generally the belief that Amazon has held as they have pursued increased warehouse automation with a variety of different robots doing the work that would typically require a fair amount of manpower.
A new internal report obtained by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting is claiming that there is an increase in injury rates at Amazon warehouses as a result of the robots. The report reveals unusually high rates of injury across the board, even compared to equivalent warehouses run by other companies. The report reveals Amazon warehouses counted 14,000 serious injuries in 2019 (meaning injuries that require days off or job restrictions), and “the overall rate of 7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees was 33% higher than in 2016. Which shows that Amazon is not winning the battle against reducing workplaces injuries
In the surprise finding, it appears as if the increased work rate of the robots has led to longer shifts and more injuries from humans as they now need to work harder in their manual work to keep up with the speed, efficiency and tirelessness of the robots. So, while robots may be making things more efficient, those parts of the job which have yet to be automated are proving to be more stressful than ever for workers. Either that or the robots have already started taking us out by getting humans injured inconspicuously.
In the report, it shows Amazon has piloted specific measures recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to help reduce injury risk, such as an extra rest break or rotating workers to other jobs during the day but it appears these measures have not been widely implemented, which may also be a cause for the higher number of injuries.
This last part perhaps shouldn’t surprise as Amazon does not have a good reputation in dealing with their warehouse problems and the company will probably only ramp up its robotic automation efforts to replace these manual jobs than make sweeping changes to certain practices. After all, robots do not complain, don’t form unions or go on strike due to being overworked and underpaid. Though hopefully, I am wrong on this count an Amazon does make sweeping changes soon to address these issues.
Last Updated: September 30, 2020