Amazon warehouse collapse raises questions about phone bans at work

Severe damage to an Amazon distribution center is seen on December 11, 2021 in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Severe damage to an Amazon distribution center is seen on December 11, 2021 in Edwardsville, Illinois.
Photo: Michael B. Thomas (Getty Images)

Amazon has an area of ​​1.1 million square feet The warehouse that collapsed in Edwardsville, Illinois was among the buildings that were hit by a A series of deadly hurricanes Friday that swept six states, killing dozens of people. The tragedy has put Amazon under a microscope for not allowing warehouse workers to carry their mobile phones with them to work.

a Bloomberg report Sunday posted a glimpse into how employees feel about the company’s cell phone ban after the incident in Edwardsville, which claimed a life at least six Amazon warehouse workers. The outlet spoke to five Amazon employees, some of whom work at the company’s facility across the street from the Edwardsville warehouse, who said they wanted to be able to receive information about deadly weather events through their smartphones.

the Edwardsville warehouse was roof ripped off A hurricane caused its 11-inch-thick concrete walls to collapse in on themselves. Reuters reported that at least 45 Amazon workers managed to get out safely from the rubble. Amazon said the warehouse employs nearly 190 workers across multiple shifts.

Photo of the article titled Warehouse Collapse in Edwardsville makes workers question Amazon's alleged phone ban at work

Photo: Team Viizer / AFP (Getty Images)

According to Bloomberg, Amazon has banned employees from taking their phones with them and is requiring them to leave devices in their cars or work lockers. The outlet reported that the company eased its policy during the pandemic, but is slowly returning to bans at facilities across the United States

An unnamed worker from another Amazon facility in Illinois told Bloomberg that they had their phones with them in the warehouse The floor will allow them to call loved ones or emergency responders if they get trapped after a severe weather event.

“After these deaths, there is no way in hell I rely on Amazon to keep me safe,” the worker said. “If they set a no cell phone policy, I quit.”

A worker at an Amazon warehouse in Indiana echoed safety concerns. It told Bloomberg that it does not go to work when Amazon decides to keep the warehouse open when potentially severe weather events are forecast. After consulting information about the weather on her phone, she decided to use paid time off to stay home.

“I don’t trust them for my safety to be completely honest,” the employee said. “If there’s severe weather on the way, I think I should be able to make my own decision about safety.”

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel told Gizmodo Sunday that the company continues to provide support for its team in Edwardsville.

“We are deeply saddened by the news that members of the Amazon family have died as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, Illinois,” Nantel said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone affected by the cyclone. We also want to thank all first responders for their ongoing efforts at the site. We continue to provide support to our staff and partners in the area.”

Amazon added that it was providing support to the Edwardsville Community and will donate $1 million to the Edwardsville Community Foundation. The company is also reaching out to the families of warehouse workers who died during the collapse and providing first responders with accommodation and hot meals.

When asked by Gizmodo if it would consider changing the no-cell phone policy for warehouse workers in light of severe weather events, the company said employees and drivers are allowed to have their own cell phones. We requested further clarification on whether employees and drivers are allowed to carry their mobile phones with them on the warehouse floor, but had not received a response as of press time. We’ll make sure to update this blog if we hear back.

In addition to concerns about mobile accessibility, others have also questioned Amazon’s emergency protocols and infrastructure. Warehouse Workers for Justice, a nonprofit organization in Illinois dedicated to helping warehouse workers obtain decent, stable jobs that provide a living wage, In a statement on Saturday Illinois lawmakers have called for a hearing about Amazon’s safety practices at its facilities.

“Given Amazon’s poor record for worker safety in the relentless pursuit of profit, we are calling on Illinois lawmakers to hold a hearing to ensure that all Amazon facilities are safe places for workers and that they don’t have to worry about whether or not their loved ones will do so,” said Warehouse Workers for Justice. :

Amazon told Gizmodo that employees at the site received tornado warnings through various alerts. She said her team worked quickly to secure as many employees and partners as possible The designated shelter can be accessed in place.

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