Internet giant Amazon was urged by a worker advocacy group weeks ago to give workplace safety urgent attention.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health said seven workers nationwide have died in accidents at Amazon warehouses since 2013, tamping down praise the company received for raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour.
"A pay increase is worth a lot more if you come home in one piece at the end of your shift," said Marcy Goldstein Gelb, the group's co-executive director.
At least two dozen workers at Amazon's Robbinsville, New Jersey, plant were hospitalized Wednesday, officials said, after a can of bear repellent fell off a shelf, putting a fresh spotlight on the internet company's safety record.
“The safety of our employees is our top priority," Amazon spokeswoman Rachel Lighty said.
Amazon recently turned down a bid by Newark for its second headquarters in favor of Queens and Northern Virginia, but the company still has a huge stake in New Jersey, with 16,000 employees at nine fulfillment centers in the state.
The company, however, has been under increasing scrutiny for its safety record. The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health in April called out Amazon for what it said was a poor record.
Among the incidents: Roland Smith, 57, a temporary employee, was dragged and crushed to death by a conveyor belt in a December 2013 accident at Amazon's warehouse in Avenel, New Jersey.
Other incidents have been more recent. One worker at a Carlisle, Pennsylvania, warehouse was run over by a truck in September 2017. Another at its Plainfield, Indiana, warehouse died a week later after his head was crushed by a forklift, the safety group said.
"The pressure to move products will be intense inside the company's warehouses," Peter Dooley, safety and health project consultant for the group, said of the holiday shopping season. "After seven preventable deaths, the company must implement a program that eliminates all preventable illnesses, injuries and fatalities. And workers need to be part of that program for it to work."
Michael L. Diamond; @mdiamondapp; 732-643-4038; firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Bear spray accident at Amazon warehouse shines light on safety record