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OSHA says Amazon employees do not recall designated shelter-in-place location during warehouse collapse


Amazon has been issued a Hazard Alert Letter from the U.S Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), requiring the company to review its severe weather emergency procedures, after a tornado struck Amazon's Edwardsville, Illinois warehouse killing six people back in December.

In the letter, OSHA says its investigators determined that Amazon's severe weather emergency procedures met minimal federal safety guidelines for storm sheltering, recommending that the company makes improvements to protect its workers and contact drivers from future weather disasters.

OSHA listed three areas of improvement for the Edwardsville Warehouse:

  • Ensure that all employees are provided training and participate in emergency weather drills.
  • Include site-specific information in severe weather emergency plans.
  • All audible warning devices and locations of the device should be clearly identified in the severe weather emergency plan and readily accessible.

This comes as OSHA investigators identified that the megaphone used to activate the shelter-in-place procedure to notify personnel about a site emergency was locked in a cage and not accessible. Management altered staff verbally, instructing them to take shelter in the restroom after receiving local weather alerts and tornado warnings about 10 minutes prior to the tornado's touch down on the southern point of the building.

In interviews with Amazon employees, some say they do not recall the location designated for shelter-in-place inside the warehouse. The employees said they do not remember participating in any severe weather shelter-in-place drills. Some employees also stated they were not aware that the designated shelter location was in the northern part of the building. 10 employees took safety in the southern portion of the building.

Aron Priddy, an OSHA investigator says having a plan is the most important.

"Provide training, participate in drills that are associated with the layout of the facility and that warning and alert methods and severe shelter locations are known to employees." Priddy said.

Amazon's Emergency Action Plan contains a section that labels severe weather emergencies but the plan does not have contain specific instructions for hazards expected in the Edwardsville facility while the plan has instructions for things like a hurricane, which is not likely to occur in Edwardsville.

Priddy says, "we found that their severe weather emergency plan is more of a corporate wide plan that was written at a level sent out to all of their locations."

The plan also did not identify the specific location for shelter in place but the facility had evacuation maps posted showing the location of the designated tornado shelter.

Amazon said in a statement they were already conducting more safety and emergency preparedness drills and will carefully consider OSHA's other recommendations.

Jack Casciato with Clifford Law Offices, who is representing the family of a delivery driver killed in the warehouse said in a letter his office is conducting its own investigation into what happened during and after the fatal event he said was "preventable."

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Erika McGuire

Erika McGuire originally comes from Detriot. She is a reporter and weekend anchor on ABC 17 News.


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