Robot in Amazon warehouse hospitalises 24 workers with bear repellent spray

Matthew Field
Amazon's fulfillment centre in Robinsville, which uses automated robots - REUTERS

A robot in an Amazon warehouse has hospitalised 24 of its human colleagues after breaking open a pressurised can of bear repellent.

The automated machine accidentally punctured a 255g can containing concentrated capsican, an ingredient used in pepper spray, sending out painful fumes at the US Amazon facility in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

Local media reported 24 Amazon workers were hospitalised, including one reportedly in a critical condition. 30 others were treated at the scene, officials told ABC News.

Amazon said: “At our Robbinsville fulfillment center, a damaged aerosol can dispensed strong fumes in a contained area of the facility. The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area were relocated to safe place. Employees experiencing symptoms are being treated onsite.

“As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment. We appreciate the swift response of our local responders.”

Amazon fulfillment centres typically employ robots for automating some tasks. The warehouse was around 1.3 million square feet and was ventilated.

The local fire department said it was treating multiple patients, with seven ambulances sent to the facility on Wednesday.

Union officials criticised Amazon's safety procedures. Stuart Appelbaum, union president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said: “The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people's lives at risk. Our union will not back down until Amazon is held accountable for these and so many more dangerous labor practices.”