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back to article Amazon staff toiled in 100°F+ warehouse

Low-paid Amazon workers, many of whom were temporary agency contractors, sweated this summer in temperatures above 100°F (38°C) in a shipping warehouse, a US newspaper investigation has revealed. The internet giant laid on paramedics for staff at the Breinigsville, Pennsylvania "fulfillment center", with employees taken to …

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Coat

They're working in the amazon, what did they expect?

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Anonymous Coward

UK the law cover low temperatures with a min but no max, so USA probably have less than that

In the UK we have a min temperature requirment under law, alas there is no upper temperature or indeed any legal requirement to install aircon.

The law has a min of 16 degree's and if manual labouring then 13 degree's and with regards to a upper limit it is mearly defined as reasonable in every aspect. "http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/faqs/temperature.htm"

So you can resonably assume that managment backs are covered unless somebody dies and then fingers have to be pointed. As nobody died then you can resonably say they were reasonable.

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Yep, because it's so expensive to provide for comfortable temperatures in some industrial settings. Think how hot it gets on the Tube in summer, or for a really extreme example how hot it gets in deep mines.

The guys working on neutrino detectors have to work in 60 degree celsius temperatures. The key is to make sure that humidity is low, that workers have no medical condition that inhibits perspiration, and that fresh water is on hand.

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Anonymous Coward

Risk assessment can get them in the UK

If managers had failed to anticipate high temperatures and the measures necessary to prevent them.

And in the UK, minor incidents would probably go in the accident book, and there's RIDDOR which includes

"any other injury leading to hypothermia, heat-induced illness or unconsciousness, or requiring resuscitation, or requiring admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours"

which would require a prompt phone call to the HSE.

There is also plenty of guidance in the UK from the CIBSE etc on what constitutes reasonable working conditions.

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Anonymous Coward

Quoting your link

"The law does not state a minimum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:

16°C, or

13°C if much of the work is physical."

(The Factories Act has mostly been replaced, in case anyone was wondering.)

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Mushroom

I'm supprised you chose those places as examples.

Try an metal furnace for fun temps ^_^

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Mushroom

Right. Ok. So what?

"Low-paid Amazon workers, many of whom were temporary agency contractors, sweated this summer in temperatures above 100°F (38°C) in a shipping warehouse, a US newspaper investigation has revealed."

SO DID I during that European Heatwave Attack back when. And I was supposed to write programs.

Bore me with some other unionized worker complaints crap.

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Happy

As I recall.....

How do you know it's summer? You go into the computer suite to stave off heatstroke.

How do you know it's winter? You go into the computer suite to stave off frostbite.

Worst summer ever was when I was in a temporary office adjacent to the elevated section of the M4. It was a simple choice: Windows closed and cooked to death or windows open and gassed to death. I carry a deep, ingrained hatred of HGVs, Coaches and pretty much anything else with a diesel engine to this day.

Kids these days...........(cont. Letters page of the Fail).

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Anonymous Coward

So did you have to move / package many boxes up for hours on end during your programming or were you sat down going "phew, get a load of this heat!" with a desk fan pointed in your direction?

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Anonymous Coward

Programs??!! Noooooo!!!!111

Well no wonder you have no sympathy with people who just had to carry things around for 12 hours, you were supposed to write programs.

What a bunch of slackers - complaining in a world where others are supposed to write programs. They should be ashamed. And shot.

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Alien

Amazon unionised!!

Are you from an alternate reality?

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Uh ...

Until you've worked in an empty chicken house on a humid 100F day I don't want to hear about programming. And I'm a programmer.

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Thumb Down

Re "Right. Ok. So what?" I do most sincerely hope that you are not...........

...............any kind of manager/employer. If you are then you are undoubtedly the type of manager/employer who gives workers every good reason to join a trades union.

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Anonymous Coward

I dont get it

What has an email warning about a gunman got to do with putting orders in boxes? I'm sure if there was a gunman on the loose in the Amazon warehouse a very different reaction would have been taken.

Usually under difficult working conditions (hot cold mass sickness etc) management will not say anything in order to complete fulfilment of customer orders, However when asked/approached they will not pressure staff, into working under those conditions, if there are objections. It's the same here with snow if you can, you work. If your concerned management understand and allow you to leave each circumstance is evaluated and no reasonable request is refused..

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I think the problem is that many of these workers will only find out what the working temperatures were when they get home and log in to their AOL accounts. I doubt that many of them will have the latest smartphone with push emails giving by-the-second updates.

Also, they would know how hot it is, as thats one of the things you can tell without having to read it off an email. If sweat is pouring down your face, it may be a tad warm.

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Silver badge

Yes, you're allowed to leave...

...only in doing so you immediately jeopardize your prospects of being allowed back the following day. In an era where job security is rapidly dwindling to zero, and where global competition is basically drawing the worker's norm down to "slavery or starvation--your choice", most workers (especially temps, as the article notes) have to weigh their actions carefully.

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Steel

If I recall correctly, Allentown was famous for steelmaking. So all the workers should be used to the heat?

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Unfortunately the last foundries closed decades ago and most everyone who worked in them moved into other fields, like working at the local Mack truck manufacturing plant, driving said trucks, or construction contracting for the seemingly endless housing developments going up in the area. The people working for Amazon are probably younger types adverse to manual labor who signed on because it is an internet company.

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Anonymous Coward

Mustabeen...

... hot stuff they were shipping.

Coat? In that heat? Even if I could I wouldn't, but I can't.

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Anonymous Coward

I've done warehouse work in the UK in winter in years gone. To economise, the management pulled the fuses from the warehouse space heaters. Temperatures down to -15 centigrade.... 4 quid an hour (1992), 14 hour shifts, a culture where management used threats ranging from violence to sacking to motivate those members work force trying to recover some body heat in other areas of the facility and still they went bust.

The bullying kind of backfired too. Racial insults fired at one worker ended up with the manager concerned unconcious, and the manager who ran to his aid receiveing a broken jaw for his efforts (IIRC). Police duly commented to temps, after a particularly typical, ill tempered exchange with the senior manager on site, that were only surprised it hadn't happened sooner.

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Anonymous Coward

Get it yet?

Third para, first sentence, people are emailled about the current temperature (not a lot of chance to read it if they are standing or lifting 49lbs)

Almost like Moss emailling a fire alarm alert,....

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Upper Temperature

US OSHA regulations only define an "extreme" upper temperature as being over 40C (104F).... but that's only using a special thermometer to measure which is basically a thermometer in a brass orb that's painted black... This does not include the "heat index" (which takes into account breezes and humidity), but is a straight temperature reading.

I work in a warehouse environment myself in Florida and often this summer have experienced heat indexes over 100. Most warehouses modify their working hours so that you finish work by about 2 or 3 when the temperature is at it's hottest. (of course, i work for one of those places that schedule the HEAVIEST work between 2 and 5pm)

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Silver badge

fulfillment center?

I'm sure there must be a mistake. Surely, they meant "Enrichment Center"? Wasn't that a rehearsal of the "Bring your daughter to work" day?

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Flame

Amazon...

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the complaint regarding heat, Amazon is a nasty beast to work with or for. Their practices are sharper than a Wilkinson Sword quad-blade razor and they have got to the stage where they pretty much feel that can get away with anything to screw money out of people, whether it's employees, sellers or customers. I would love to see the entire lot of them sink back into the swamp, so any group of people who bring Amazon to the attention of the media and expose them for what they are have my total support.

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Meh, This isn't unusual

I used to work in the conveyor industry and have visited a large number of distribution and fulfillment centers around North America. These are typically not air conditioned, even in the southern US.

Temperatures over 100F inside the warehouse are not uncommon. During one installation in Memphis, near the centers roof, the temperature was near 140F. Luckily, I usually worked in the computer room which was the only room with air conditioning.

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Anonymous Coward

*water* and ice treatment?

Cheapskates. They might at least have made it *beer*.

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Pint

alchohol humor

Yes, beer, LOL and all that.

Seriously, giving them beer would have been incredibly stupid. Dehydration and all that.

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Anonymous Coward

But how do you really feel?

Do you think this is the only place where people work in very hot wether on rare occasions? People do this in factories all over the world daily. Yes the employees should have been treated better but so should most employees but it won't happen when money is involved.

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Anonymous Coward

been there, seen that...

Rio de Janeiro, outdoors, summer: 40ºC.

Inside the water-side of a condenser (heat exchanger) being hot-repaired, while you have steam on the other, that can't be shutdown: 60ºC.

We actually felt cold when going outside. However, OSHA (the brazilian equivalent) was there and provided 2-hours labour (inside the condenser), to 1-hour rest, and plenty of fluids.

Great way to lose 10 pounds in a day.

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Anonymous Coward

SHould've taken some advice from Robin Williams.

It's hot! Damned hot! Tarzan couldn't take this kind of heat!

And tonight! It's gonna be hot and wet! That's alright if you're with a lady, but not so good if you're in a jungle.

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FAIL

Make the amazon president and CEO an Vice President work there

Most modern docks no mater the size would all be air conditioned by now.

It sems the acilities manager is wimp to upgrade the building any.

Again though I wonder how old the wharehouse really is.

If it is less than 15 years old then it SHOULD have AC and dock doors with those PVS/plastic ribbons with the AIRDOOR to help keep heat out.

Seems like Amazon does not really like their employees and prefers to suffer the people so the rich fat cats keep most in their wallets.

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FAIL

False Economy

Figure a minimum of $500 to transport a person to hospital. Hospital ER rates vary from frightening to terrorizing so you can reckon even at a bulk rate the cost per employee would be a couple of thousand minimum. Figuring out who pays is going to be the interesting bit.

The idea of heat index is relatively unknown in the UK because you don't experience the lethal combination of high temperatures and high humidity you can get in some parts of the US -- walking literally feels like you're pushing your way through a wall. If you work in these conditions then you can't get rid of body heat and you're likely to get heat stroke if you exert yourself.

I've bought a lot of stuff off Amazon over the years but what with the California business and now this I think it may be time to look for alternatives.

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Anonymous Coward

I think many of you miss the fact

I think that many of you miss the fact that the weather was UNUSUALLY hot in the area. I'm sure that if you went to the Amazon center in Coffeyville, KS, it would have airconditioning capable of dealing with an external temperature over 40C, because *it gets hot in Southeastern Kansas* - you expect it, you have the gear to deal with it.

But if you don't normally see temperatures over 30C, why would you equip a building to deal with significantly higher temps? When you needed the cooling it would likely fail from disuse.

And 100F? I used to push a lawn mower for 8 hours a day in south central Kansas. 100F would have been sheer luxury - indeed, when it was "only" 90F I'd wear a jacket (and that's not exaggeration!) What a bunch of wimps we modern humans are.

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Thumb Down

If it were unusually hot, and affecting the health of your workforce,

the humane thing to do might be to shut down the warehouse until it's cooled down a bit. Would Amazon insist their workers keep going if the warehouse had flooded, or would they wait until the water had drained away?

Then again, given the statement that the workers were suffering from "non-work related medical conditions triggered by the heat," Amazon appear to believe that their workforce brought their troubles on themselves, suggesting that they don't really understand the concept of being "humane".

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Silver badge

A lot of people saying they did X in a temperature of Y but their conditions were easier than the warehouse even according to them.

Could they have expanded the night shift I wonder ? Indeed is it any cooler at night there?

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Stop

>when it was "only" 90F I'd wear a jacket (and that's not exaggeration!)

90F is 32C, and you wore a jacket - guess you're right about being a wimp!

If it was half that temp (and overcast / breezy) then you would be justified wearing a jacket!

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Joke

And when I were a lad

We'd work 29 hours a day down t'mill, pay t'mill owner for permission to come to work, eat a cup of cold gravel, and our dads would dance on our grave singing Hallelujah.

etc.

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Meh

low pay - warehouse

Yep. The majority of workers here in the U.S. have to deal with the climate cycles. God knows we've tried to unionize the seasonal tempeurature shifts but we still aren't gaining ground. Fillibuster on Sol!

What a bunch of weeping vaginas. If it's too hot for you to lift and carry 49lbs then you're a useless American who doesn't deserve a job. Your parents & Grandparents didn't cry when they had to actually put in work in the same conditions. Are you really going to tell me your Grammy is stronger than you??

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Meh

I sort of agree with you regarding younger generations getting softer (myself included!) but on the other hand you can't dismiss improving working conditions as totally being a bad thing!

We have, in general in the west, moved away from working hard to survive to working to improve our lot.

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What's interesting about this isn't the temperatures:

People regularly work in conditions like that all over the world. Hell, even in the UK I remember working, in the very hot summer of '76, picking tomatoes in regularly >100F heat and high humidity - in greenhouses of course.

What's interesting is what was it about the working culture and treatment of staff that meant that so many came down with heat exhaustion?

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Anonymous Coward

Meh....

...I the bad old days when I used to work making label paper, we often worked in tempretures of that (when you have effectivly have 3 ovens feed by a 4 inch gas main you soon see why). Provided you drink plenty, shove your head in a bucket of water from time to time and dress ok, it's not *that* bad.

Fondly recall opening the doors in winter to let the deliveries in and seeing the drivers face when he see's us in shorts and t-shirts when it's -5c outside.

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Anonymous Coward

So what?

many of us in the past or present have worked in extreme conditions, but does it mean that we cannot advance, cannot work in better environment if possible especially if the employing company is making billions?

Why are we all looking more at the Chinese model those days?

this financial crisys has been provoked in order to take civil liberty away from us.

The big company will keep on making huge profits meanwhile people will make less and less with poor working conditions.

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Unhappy

Welcome to Capitalism...

...or as I call it, "Winner Economics". If they can use the money to bulk the business rather than pay the workers (as labor is considered a COST by any business), then they'll jump on it...because if they don't, someone else will and will undercut them as a result. Why are so many businesses running to China and other such nations? Simple; China's overpopulated, and people are EXPENDABLE there (Don't believe me? Check out how they handle mining accidents). When the labor's expendable or, they can't dictate terms. A similar situation occurred in the Middle Ages until the Black Death hit (drastically trimming the labor supply). And the skilled labor gets sent to places like India where $10/day is a living wage (and that's if you play fair). And Asia has enough of a population BY ITSELF to support businesses, so if you tell businesses to stop hiring abroad, there's a real risk they'll pack up and swear allegiance to China instead, since cutting the West out of your life cuts customers but also cuts red tape--the latter may be worth the former when you can get more customers in Asia.

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Holmes

Do you have a better way of running things?

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Not anymore.

Because in terms of population and global reach we've likely already passed the event horizon. A large chunk of human society is basically being reduced to crap. Now all that awaits is the inevitable kiss of the fan blades.

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Hot & bothered

A relative worked for the FBI in the old days before air conditioning. The routine then was to send file staff home after a certain number had fainted from the heat. The aisles between the file cabinets were narrow, so evacuating fainted staff could be awkward.

@S Grundy. Our grandparents also had dentistry without anesthetics, commonly lost half their siblings to childhood diseases, and the men died at 60 of heart attacks. Next time you're due at the dentist, skip it, grab a pair of pliers, and experience the good old days!

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Anonymous Coward

yadda yadda

where's my stuff?

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