Amazon has been fined $7,000 after a 20-year-old worker died when he hit his head trying to clear a blocked conveyor and got trapped in the machinery. Caes Gruesbeck died of blunt force injuries in the gruesome workplace accident that happened on May 8 at the Amazon distribution center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, according to a September 18 safety order.
Indiana safety officials conducted an 11-week investigation into Gruesbeck’s death and found that Amazon failed to ensure a workplace ‘free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death’ and issued a serious safety citation, The Washington Post reported. Amazon spokesperson Maureen Lynch Vogel, who expressed condolences to the family, said the company ‘is always investing in safety,’ and said Gruesbeck’s training was up-to-date and that he was wearing the required safety equipment at the time of the accident.
‘After the tragedy, we immediately closed the facility, notified Indiana OSHA, and began cooperating with their investigation,’ Vogel said. The $7,000 fine the company was slapped with is the maximum penalty in Indiana. The low fine has raised concerns for advocates who say it doesn’t force large companies to make changes. Advocate Stephen Wagner, an Indiana attorney, who has been working on getting more worker-friendly laws in the state, was exasperated by the fine.
‘Seven thousand dollars for the death of a 20-year-old? What’s that going to do to Amazon?’ Wagner said. ‘There’s no real financial incentive for an employer like Amazon to change their working environment to make it more safe.’ Former federal workplace safety officials claim that Indiana has some of the most lax protections for workers in the country with even lower fines than other states. The Hoosier State not only caps fines for serious violations at $7,000 but also prevents families from suing for wrongful death in civil court, even though state officials argue Amazon should have done more in the death of Gruesbeck.
As of November 24, Amazon has a market cap of a staggering $1.52 trillion dollars. In one year, its market cap has increased by 53.05 percent, as cited in a stock analysis report by The Barbell Investor. An Indiana safety order report stated Amazon should have properly trained employees like Gruesbeck, enforced safety rules about driving elevated lifts under low clearance machinery, and more clearly demarcated ‘danger zones.’ But Amazon hit back, saying the company moved quickly to fix the safety issues, for example, hanging signs in ‘low-clearance areas.’
Safety officials point out that Gruesbeck’s case reveals how limited federal safety regulators are at effectively handing out penalties or enforcing safety policies on giant corporations such as Amazon, the Post reported. In September, the billion-dollar company publicly defended its safety record at a hearing in Washington state following more than a decade of complaints about workplace conditions across the country. During the hearing, state labor regulators alleged that Amazon workers are exposed to an increased risk of ergonomic injury and musculoskeletal disorders as they awkwardly bend and twist to move goods through the warehouse.
Amazon denied the allegations and said its injury rate is improving. Citing a lack of operational change, Washington state has charged the company twice with willfully violating safety standards, citations Amazon has appealed, according to a former story in The Washington Post . Vogel addressed Amazon’s safety record in Washington, and previously said the allegations ‘are inaccurate and don’t reflect the reality of safety at Amazon.’ ‘The truth is that we’re always investing in safety and our efforts are working,’ she said at the time.
Vogel also said that ‘OSHA’s record-keeping citations confirm that there is no systemic underreporting of injuries’ at Amazon and that the company takes ‘the safety and health of our employees very seriously.’ She continued: ‘The government’s allegations don’t reflect the reality of safety at our site,’ she said. On the day of the accident, many of the workers on the scene were shaken, as emergency medical crews responded.
The critically injured Gruesbeck was taken to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The facility was closed for the rest of the day. Friends described Gruesbeck as ‘very smart’ and always ‘trying to help,’ who enjoyed hanging out with his friends, listening to music, and playing video games. Gruesbeck was only weeks away from his 21st birthday, according to his obituary. His mother Tracey, who lost her husband from cancer a year earlier, is now grieving the loss of her only child. Read the full story:https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12795995/Indiana-Amazon-fined-worker-dies-Caes-Gruesbeck.html?ito=msngallery
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