Safety and OSHA News

Bear spray discharges in Amazon warehouse, dozens of worker sickened

A word to the wise: The effects bear pepper spray have on the ursus animal family are the same for humans. Some workers at an Amazon warehouse found that out the hard way. 

About 80 workers had trouble breathing after a can of bear repellent was hit and punctured by an “automated machine,” sending fumes into the air inside the Amazon warehouse in Robbinsville, NJ on Dec. 5, according to a company spokesman. Twenty-four of the workers were taken to hospitals, and one was listed in critical condition. One local media report said a total of 54 Amazon workers needed medical treatment.

The spokesman says the incident happened in a contained area. All employees in that area were relocated, and some employees were treated on site. The entire warehouse wasn’t evacuated.

According to www.bearsmart.com when using bear spray:

“The aerosol can shoots bursts of atomized capsaicin (a red pepper derivative) up to eight meters (26 feet), though the spray is most effective at short range. Bear pepper spray causes the membranes of the eyes, nose and lungs of a bear to swell and the result is a nearly total, yet temporary, loss of sight and severe restriction of breathing. To be effective, bear spray has to hit the eyes and nose of the bear.”

Bear spray has a similar effect on people. Symptoms usually subside within 45 minutes.

Amazon says it’s investigating to find out exactly how the incident took place. OSHA is also investigating.

The Amazon spokesman said, “The safety of our employees is our top priority.”

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