Following the death of six workers at a warehouse in the US state of Illinois due to a tornado, Amazon is facing concerns about its health and safety procedures.
“If they cared about lives above output, this would never have occurred,” said the sister of one of the victims on social media.
In reaction to the tornado, the corporation claims that its crew “acted fast.”
When the storm pounded the warehouse on Friday, the roof fell.
An Amazon spokesman, Kelly Nantel, stated in a statement that the business is “truly saddened” by the deaths.
Clayton Cope, 29, was one among those killed. He spoke to his family on the phone soon before the building in Edwardsville, Illinois was attacked.
Carla, Clayton’s mother, claimed she had contacted her son to warn him of the approaching storm.
Carla told NBC affiliate KSDK, “We warned him it appeared like the storm was headed his way and that he needed to get to safety.”
Clayton, who had served in the Navy before, assured his mother that he would first notify his coworkers.
Now, there are concerns about whether enough shelter was provided, if workers were told to go there soon away, and whether the shifts should have gone forward that evening at all, given the extreme weather forecasts.
When contacted by reporters, Amazon claimed the Edwardsville location got tornado warnings between 20:06 and 20:16 local time (01:06 and 01:16 GMT) before the tornado impacted the building at 20:27, with events “happening really rapidly.”
The team worked “very swiftly” to guarantee that as many workers and partners as possible could reach the “shelter in place” location, according to the corporation.
Austin J McEwen, a 26-year-old freight driver, died in the restroom, where several workers said they were urged to seek cover after getting emergency notifications on their cellphones.
“They started yelling, “Shelter in place!” as I was just walking inside the building,” recalled David Kosiak, 26, who has worked at the facility for three months. “We were in the restrooms,” says the narrator. “That’s where they sent us,” says the narrator.
“It sounded like a train was passing past.” The ceiling tiles began to fall. It was quite noisy. Mr Kosiak added, “They made us hide in situ till we left – it was at least two-and-a-half hours in there.”
Following a tornado warning, Amazon employees were “notified and asked to go to a designated and marked shelter in place site,” according to the corporation.
The bulk of the crew sought refuge in “the primary designated site,” according to the firm, while a small fraction sought refuge in a section of the building that was damaged by the storm. “This is where the majority of the unfortunate deaths happened,” Amazon stated.
Clayton’s sister Rachel told the BBC that she believed from her brother’s and parents’ talk that he and the other workers were not ordered to seek cover immediately after the first warning siren sounded.
She made a Facebook post requesting that the firm’s commitment to health and safety be publicized.
“Everyone knows that Amazon is just concerned with production,” she added.
She said that if the employer “brought them [the employees] to safety once the storm started getting nasty and took it seriously,” her brother would not have perished.
“No one would have been rushing to the shelter at the last minute, and my brother would not have had to assist others in getting to the shelter, putting his life in danger,” she wrote.
“I want them to take responsibility for this; I want this to be a beginning point for companies that take their employees’ lives seriously and treat them as individuals rather than numbers.”
On Friday evening, catastrophic storms slammed across six US states, killing about 100 people and destroying houses and businesses over a 200-mile (322-kilometer) radius. A candle business in Mayfield, Kentucky, has verified eight deaths.
The storm increased quickly when it hit the Amazon warehouse, with gusts reaching 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour), tearing the roof off the football field-sized facility, according to the National Weather Service. The concrete walls, which were 11 inches thick (28 cm), collapsed in on themselves.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is attempting to unionize Amazon workers across the United States, said it was “inexcusable” that the business forced individuals to work despite the tornado warning.
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched an inquiry into the building collapse, according to the US Department of Labor.
Companies have a legal obligation to maintain a safe workplace, according to Rebecca Givan, an associate professor at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labour Relations, but the consequences for breaking it are quite mild.
From an ethical viewpoint, she believes businesses should “prioritize the health of their staff,” and “be willing to communicate with customers that delivery will take a bit longer.”
She said that Amazon doesn’t directly hire many of these individuals, instead relying on subcontractors, thus allowing them to avoid concerns about whether those workers should have been summoned to work on Friday evening in the first place.
Jeff Bezos, the company’s creator, has also come under fire for tweeting photos of astronauts who had recently returned from a space tourism journey aboard his Blue Origin rocket.
He later tweeted: “The news out of Edwardsville is heartbreaking. We’re devastated by the death of our comrades there, and our hearts go out to their families and loved ones.”
Amazon announced a $1 million (£757,000) donation to the Edwardsville Community Foundation, as well as emergency items like as transportation, food, and water.