OSHA investigating death of Amazon workers in New Jersey

Federal work safety investigators investigate the death of an Amazon employee and an injury that may have resulted in the death of another employee, adding to an investigation already underway after a third fatal accident during the annual Prime Day -the company’s shopping event in mid-July.

All three Amazon employees died in the past month while working at company facilities in New Jersey.

The new investigations from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration are re-examining Amazon’s injury rates and workplace safety procedures, which have long been criticized by labor and safety advocates as inadequate.

Department of Labor spokesman Denisha Braxton confirmed on Thursday that the most recent fatal accident happened last week at an Amazon facility in Monroe Township, about 20 miles (35 kilometers) northeast of Trenton. The second probe investigates a July 24 accident at an Amazon facility in Robbinsville. The employee involved in that accident died three days later, Braxton said.

In a statement, Robbinsville Police Chief Michael Polaski said police responded to the warehouse, called PNE5, on July 24 after they received a report that a worker fell from a three-foot ladder and hit his head.

Polaski said the worker was conscious and alert when police arrived. But police were told before their arrival that CPR was being performed on the person by other workers, he said. The person was transported to a hospital and OSHA was notified of the incident the same day, he added.

Police in Monroe Township did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the incident there.

The two most recent deaths were first reported by the USA Today Network.

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OSHA officials declined to provide additional information about the deaths, citing the pending investigations. The agency has up to six months to complete each investigation.

Sam Stephenson, a spokesperson for Seattle-based Amazon, said in a statement that the company is “deeply saddened by the passing of our colleagues and extends our condolences to their families and friends.”

“Our investigations are ongoing and we are working with OSHA, which is conducting its own assessments of the events, as they often do in these situations,” Stephenson said.

Last month, OSHA launched another investigation into an employee fatality at an Amazon warehouse in the New Jersey town of Carteret during the company’s Prime Day shopping event, which turned out to be the largest in the company’s history. Federal officials have not released additional details about the death, but news reports have identified the employee as Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias, 42.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company’s internal investigation into Carteret’s death shows it was “not a work-related incident, but was instead related to a personal medical condition.”

“OSHA is currently investigating the incident and based on the evidence currently available to us, we fully expect it to come to the same conclusion,” the spokesperson said.

The news of the deaths comes amid a wider investigation into the company’s operations. In late July, OSHA officials inspected Amazon facilities in New York, Illinois and Florida after receiving referrals of alleged health and safety violations from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The US law firm’s civil division is also investigating security risks at Amazon warehouses and “fraudulent behavior designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others,” a spokesperson for the office said.

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