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OSHA Inspections of Retailer Warehouses Targeted by Watchdog (1)

Dec. 29, 2021, 6:36 PMUpdated: Dec. 29, 2021, 8:16 PM

A federal watchdog is scrutinizing OSHA’s enforcement efforts at fulfillment centers and warehouses such as those operated by Amazon.com Inc. and other retailers.

The inquiry by the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General was disclosed Wednesday in letter from the inspector to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The letter didn’t specifically mention Amazon or any other retailer by name.

OSHA has faced frequent criticism from worker advocacy groups for infrequently citing Amazon for musculoskeletal injuries, such as joint pains from repetitive lifting, and a lack of Covid-19 precautions.

Enforcement records from OSHA show the agency in the past decade has inspected Amazon facilities about 140 times and issued citations after about 20 of those inspections.

The inquiry will focus on “actions OSHA has taken to address the increase in severe injuries at warehouse and order fulfillment facilities of online and other retailers as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Carolyn Hantz, assistant inspector general, told OSHA.

The inspector general is requesting OSHA injury data and enforcement reports going back to Oct. 1, 2016.

The information sought includes all complaints made to OSHA and state plans; detailed injury data for each employer; inspection summaries; violations cited in each case; and a draft of OSHA’s proposed national emphasis program for fulfillment centers.

An OSHA spokesperson said in an emailed response that the agency is ready to participate in the inquiry and will provide “any relevant information.”

(Adds OSHA response in last paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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