Some Amazon workers say the company never offered them disaster training, report says

A satellite image shows the aftermath of a tornado in Edwardsville, Illinois, which destroyed hundred of yards of an Amazon facility, killing at least six people.
A satellite image shows the aftermath of a tornado in Edwardsville, Illinois, which destroyed hundred of yards of an Amazon facility and killed at least six people.

  • A tornado ripped through an Amazon warehouse in Illinois last Friday, killing six people. 
  • It prompted some Amazon workers across the US to complain about the company’s lack of safety drills.
  • 12 workers told The Intercept the company offered either little or zero such training.

Some Amazon workers across the country are coming out to say the company never offered them disaster training, The Intercept reported.

The comments came after a tornado ripped through an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, last week, causing the building to partially collapse and killing at least six employees.

In the days following the collapse, workers posted on Amazon’s internal “Voice of Associates” messaging board to complain about workplace safety, The Intercept reported. The outlet obtained some of these posts and also spoke to 12 Amazon employees, all of whom requested anonymity.

Most employees told the outlet they had never participated in a tornado drill or even a fire drill during their time at Amazon. Others told The Intercept they wouldn’t know what to do in case of an emergency.

“I have been here six and a half years and have never once been involved in a tornado safety drill on my shift, as well as have not taken part in a fire safety drill in about two years,” one employee who works at an Indiana fulfillment center posted on the messaging board, The Intercept reported.

A few workers said they had participated in safety drills on their shifts, but said the trainings usually felt rushed and disordered, The Intercept reported. Others said they were told the drills had been put on hold because of COVID-19, the outlet said.

The Intercept also cited LeeAnn Webster, a former employee who worked on the safety committee at a Kent, Washington, fulfilment center, as saying the drills were not conducted because it would cost the company “a lot of money to stop production long enough to do it.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, told The Intercept in a statement: “Emergency response training is provided to new employees and that training is reinforced throughout the year.”

In a Monday statement to Insider, Amazon said the facility only had a few minutes of warning before the tornado hit the facility, and that the tornado most likely formed in the facility’s parking lot before ripping through the warehouse and disappearing in an “incredibly fast” amount of time. 

It also suggested that most of the workers who died in the tornado were not sheltering in the designated location.

“There was a small group who took shelter in a part of the building that was then directly impacted by the tornado, and this is where most of the tragic loss of life occurred,” Amazon said.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration opened a workplace-safety investigation into the site on Monday.

On Monday, John Felton, a senior vice president of global delivery services for Amazon, also promised a review and said there was “a tremendous effort that happened that night to keep everybody safe,” The Guardian reported.

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