Forty-one percent of Amazon warehouse workers reported being injured while working at an Amazon facility. Fifty-one percent who worked for Amazon for more than three years reported being injured.
That’s according to a recent report based on a survey of 1,484 frontline Amazon warehouse workers across 451 facilities in 42 states.
The study, conducted by the University of Illinois Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development, found that 69% of Amazon warehouse workers reported having to take unpaid time off in the past month due to pain or exhaustion from working at the company; 34% had to do so three or more times.
Fifty-two percent reported feeling burned out from their work for the online retail giant. Among those who worked for Amazon for more than three years, 60% reported feeling burned out.
Researchers found that 41% of these workers typically feel a sense of pressure to work faster with 30% reporting that they sometimes do. Those who felt pressured to work faster reported elevated levels of injury (53%) and burnout (78%).
Sixty percent of the Amazon warehouse workers surveyed reported experiencing more workplace monitoring at Amazon than at previous jobs. Nine percent said they experienced less monitoring, and 17% said the level was about the same.
‘Unpaid time off for pain is tacit condition of working at Amazon’
“Together, these findings indicate that a logistics system geared towards unrelenting speed and maximum customer convenience exacts a heavy toll on the health and wellbeing of many Amazon warehouse workers,” the report states. “In turn, this health toll brings unmeasured economic impacts, given the immediate costs of unpaid time off from work and the potential long-term effects of pain, injury, and burnout on workers’ livelihoods.”
“It is concerning that most Amazon warehouse workers need to take unpaid time off due to pain or exhaustion as a kind of tacit condition of working at the company,” said Dr. Sanjay Pinto, a co-author of the report. “This reduces workers’ paychecks in the immediate term. The magnitude of the health toll captured in the data should also raise concerns about potential long-term effects on well-being, medical costs, future employment, and overall economic security.”
Pinto and the other researchers feel that “stronger regulatory guardrails and advances that afford workers greater voice and input could help to improve working conditions at Amazon.”
The study was conducted because the researchers “were motivated to … provide a clearer picture of how Amazon’s workplace practices impact frontline workers” after federal and state investigations of the company that began in 2022.
Amazon pushed back against a previous report by the Strategic Organizing Center that criticized the safety of the company’s warehouses, telling CNBC that the “safety and health of our employees is, and always will be, our top priority, and any claim otherwise is inaccurate.”
The company said the University of Chicago study wasn’t a study at all, rather it was “a survey done on social media by groups with an ulterior motive.”
Participants screened to target only current warehouse workers
Researchers issued a 98-question survey to current frontline Amazon warehouse workers across the U.S. between April and August 2023. The survey covered a range of topics, including:
- employment and personal background
- work intensity and worker monitoring
- health and safety
- workplace fairness
- worker voice and input, and
- economic security.
Survey participants were recruited using a “Meta/Facebook targeting method” approved by the University of Illinois Chicago Institutional Review Board. As an incentive, participants were offered the chance to win one of 15 gift cards valued at $175.
The researchers, with the aid of a media firm, ran advertisements to individuals who listed Amazon as their employer. Various methods were used to screen out Amazon employees who didn’t work in warehouses, such as drivers and management staff, as well as fraudulent surveys. Former Amazon employees were also screened out.
“In all, 3,700 people came into the survey, including 2,605 current workers, 466 former workers, and 629 individuals who said that they had never worked at the company,” according to the report. Those who said they never worked for Amazon were immediately screened out of the research.
Out of those who identified as current workers, 2,369 were frontline warehouse workers. That number was whittled down to 1,558 who reached at least the midpoint of the survey.
“In all, 1,484 individuals provided sufficient information to be included in the weighting variable,” the report states.