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Minnesota OSHA issues citations to Amazon for warehouse distribution worker safety and ergonomic hazards

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry's (DLI's) Minnesota OSHA (MNOSHA) Compliance has issued a $10,500 penalty to Amazon in Shakopee, Minnesota, regarding worker safety hazards at a warehouse distribution center.

In October 2023, MNOSHA Compliance conducted an occupational safety and health inspection at Amazon's Shakopee facility. In April 2024, MNOSHA Compliance issued two serious citations, including a general duty clause violation related to ergonomic hazards and one violation of the warehouse distribution worker safety law. The inspection found Amazon did not protect employees from ergonomic hazards while selecting, sorting, packaging and shipping products in the outbound process and Amazon Fulfillment Engine, and warehouse employees who were expected to meet a quota of selecting, stowing and packaging products were not provided a written copy of the quota before they were expected to meet the quota. Amazon has contested the citations.

"It is important that work processes are designed with the goal of eliminating workplace injuries and that workers be informed of expectations that directly impact their safety and well-being," said DLI Commissioner Nicole Blissenbach. "I'm proud of MNOSHA's work to enforce Minnesota's laws that ensure warehouse workers have a safe and healthy workplace. My hope is that the new laws and this enforcement leads warehouses in Minnesota to make the safety and health of their workers the top priority."

Warehouse distribution worker safety

As of Aug. 1, 2023, Minnesota's warehouse distribution worker safety law established new worker safety requirements for warehouse distribution centers in specific North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes to disclose quotas and work-speed data to certain current and former employees to inform them about their job performance and rights in the workplace.

If a particular worksite or employer is found to have an employee incidence rate at least 30% higher than that year's average for the NAICS codes included in the law, MNOSHA is required to open an investigation.

The law requires employers to communicate to employees about each quota they are required to meet, how the work standards for the quota will be measured and any employment consequence for not meeting the quota. The law also allows employees to access work-speed data and prohibits retaliation for seeking the data.

Additionally, covered employers must conduct monthly safety committee meetings until, for two consecutive years, the worksite or the employer does not have an employee incidence rate 30% higher than the average yearly incidence rate for the relevant NAICS code. More information about these safety requirements is available on MNOSHA’s webpages.

Minnesota's ergonomics program

MNOSHA's first-in-the-nation occupational safety and health program established standards to reduce the risk of workplace ergonomic injuries as of Jan. 1, 2024.

Since then, MNOSHA has been conducting inspections in the regulated industries, which include warehouse distribution centers and meatpacking sites with 100 or more employees, as well as hospitals, outpatient surgical centers and nursing homes of any size.

MNOSHA Compliance has also been investigating complaints and conducting outreach to the regulated industries to ensure affected employers are aware of their responsibilities under the law.

Ergonomic workplace safety

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. MSDs are one of the most prevalent and costly safety and health problems in the workplace today. The cost is not just dollars, but also time and pain. Ergonomics is the science of fitting work conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the work population.

Minnesota's ergonomics statute focuses on the employer's development and implementation of an ergonomics program to help prevent MSDs. Each covered facility must have a written ergonomics program establishing the employer's plan to minimize the risk of its employees developing or aggravating MSDs. The program must include risk assessment, initial and ongoing employee training, early reporting procedures, a process for employees to propose solutions, procedures to ensure any plant modifications or major construction projects are consistent with program goals, and program evaluation on an annual and process-change basis. The required program items are detailed in Minnesota Statutes 182.667, subdivision 2(a)-(b).

Matching safety grants of up to $10,000 are available to qualifying employers for projects designed to reduce the risk of ergonomic injury to their employees. Employers who qualify for grant funds could be reimbursed for purchasing and installing recommended safety or health equipment and training for the purchased equipment. These grant funds are intended to help encourage compliance and offset the costs for eligible expenses and eligible employers.

About MNOSHA

Minnesota OSHA Compliance enforces regulations through worksite inspections, responds to employee complaints, conducts accident investigations and provides education and technical assistance.

MNOSHA has developed webpages that provide materials employers can use to develop an employee training program, answers to frequently asked questions and additional information regarding ergonomics and other statutes.

MNOSHA is a division within the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. The agency's mission is to ensure Minnesota's work and living environments are equitable, healthy and safe. The department serves employees, employers and the public by regulating buildings and workplaces through education and enforcement.

 

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