Amazon denies health risks for workers at its warehouses

26 Nov 2013

E-commerce giant Amazon is at the centre of a perfect storm over allegations arising from a BBC Panorama investigation that workers at warehouses in the UK risk mental and physical stress as they rush to meet extra demand for goods in time for Christmas. The company has refuted the claims.

Amazon said it employed an independent expert who said the jobs are similar to jobs in other industries and do not increase the risk of physical or mental illness.

The Seattle-headquartered company said that safety of staff was its “number one priority.”

Amazon said that it has invested stg£1bn in the UK and created 5,000 permanent jobs in the country.

BBC Click undercover reporter Adam Littler got an agency job at Amazon’s Swansea warehouse where with a hidden camera he recorded working conditions. Using a pedometer he recorded up to 11 hours of walking during a single night shift where he was expected to collect orders every 33 seconds.

Littler, employed as a “picker”, was given a scanner as he attempted to fulfil orders at an 800,000 sq ft facility. He was employed for stg£6.50 an hour during the day shift and stg£8.50 an hour during the night shift and worked four nights a week for ten and a half hours, with an hour break.

Leading UK expert on stress at work Professor Michael Marmot described the conditions as “all the bad stuff at once” and warned of the increased risk of mental illness and physical illness.

“There are always going to be menial jobs, but we can make them better or worse. And it seems to me the demands of efficiency at the cost of individual’s health and wellbeing – it’s got to be balanced.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years