Amazon will not face fines and other penalties as a result of the collapse of an Illinois warehouse that killed six workers in a tornado, CNBC reported. However, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has asked Amazon to review its procedures after discovering issues with its Emergency Action Plan (EAP).
The storm that tore through six states in December, well outside of tornado season, was one of the deadliest in years. Despite tornado warnings from the National Weather Service 36 hours before the event, Amazon continued to operate the warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois. It was in the middle of a shift change when the tornado touched down with winds of up to 150 MPH destroying the south side of the building.
OSHA investigators concluded that Amazon’s severe weather emergency guidelines “met minimum safety guidelines for sheltering from storms.” Because of this, “by our standards, there is no specific citation that we can issue in light of Amazon’s actions,” OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Doug Parker told reporters.
We make recommendations because, by our standards, there is no specific citation we can issue in light of Amazon’s actions.
However, OSHA has identified certain working conditions as “risk factors.” A megaphone to be used to activate shelter-in-place procedures was caged and inaccessible, and some employees could not remember the location of the designated shelter-in-place location. Additionally, Amazon’s EAP had a section for extreme weather emergencies, but it was not customized with specific instructions for the Edwardsville facility. To that end, investigators recommended that Amazon “voluntarily” take steps to resolve the issues.
An Amazon spokesperson said CNBC that he would “consider carefully” the recommendations. “Employees receive emergency response training, and this training is reinforced throughout the year. OSHA’s investigation found no violations or cause for citations, but we are constantly looking to innovate and to improve our safety measures and have already begun conducting additional safety and emergency preparedness exercises at our sites and will carefully consider any recommendations from OSHA that we do not yet have.”
While Amazon has avoided OSHA sanctions, it faces a separate congressional investigation and multiple lawsuits. The House Oversight Committee has announced it is investigating the security of Amazon Warehouse earlier this month, saying it “seeks to fully understand the events leading up to the tragedy at Amazon’s Edwardsville plant.” The company is also facing multiple lawsuits from several injured workers and family of one of the people killed in the collapse.