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The use of robots in Amazon's warehouses and distribution centres are causing more injuries to the workforce than when facilities rely solely on human workers.
That's according to a new report by Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, which says that it acquired internal records for about 150 Amazon warehouses over four years. The report found that accidents are 50 per cent higher at facilities that rely on robots compared to those without robots.
The ecommerce giant currently employs more than 200,000 robots in operation within its delivery and fulfilment centres in the USA, according to an Associated Press report earlier this year. Amazon started employing robots at its facilities in 2012, after acquiring Kiva Systems for $775 million. At the time, Kiva Systems was one of the few recognised firms manufacturing warehouse robots and supplying them to the logistics market.
Amazon refers to its robots as "drives" and uses them alongside human workers at delivery and fulfilment centres around the US to select, sort, transport and store packages. Many analysts believe that these robots that have enabled the company to speed up its growth in logistics and online retail in the business.
According to Reveal, there were about 14,000 serious injuries at Amazon facilities in 2019, an increase of 33 per cent from 2015. The overall injury rate in 2019 was almost double the industry standard, it added.
For a few warehouses, the number of serious injuries reported was about five times the industry average.
The analysis also found that the 'Prime Day' sales period was the most dangerous week for injuries at Amazon fulfilment centres in 2019. During that period, about 400 serious injuries were recorded across the US. Cyber Monday is also among the most dangerous weeks for workers, according to the report.
In a statement to Reveal, Amazon said the number of injuries recorded at its warehouses is exaggerated because it encourages employees to report even minor accidents.
It added that the use of robots and automation technology at Amazon's facilities is actually helping to enhance the workplace and to make jobs safer and more efficient.
Amazon says it has spent nearly $55 million over the past two years to enhance safety at delivery and fulfilment centres, and that it is constantly learning and taking necessary steps to improve safety procedures.