Amazon Worker Deaths Examined by U.S. Labor Department

Two workers have died at Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) fulfillment centers since December, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, adding to safety questions about the warehouses where packages are shipped to customers.

One man was crushed to death after getting caught between a conveyor system in December 2013 while sorting packages, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said yesterday. OSHA cited five companies for violations at the Amazon facility in Avenel, New Jersey, including the contractor responsible for the sorting operation, and four staffing agencies that hired temporary employees to work at the warehouse. Amazon wasn’t cited by the government for the death.

OSHA also said that it’s investigating a fatality that occurred on June 1 at an Amazon fulfillment center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

“Any accident that occurs in a facility is one too many and we take these matters seriously,” Seattle-based Amazon said in a statement.

The incidents show the risks of working at the facilities where everything from electronic gadgets to baby diapers are shipped to millions of customers. Amazon has faced criticism for the treatment of its employees, including from labor unions that have attempted to organize workers at the fulfillment centers.

Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has been spending heavily to increase the online retailer’s network of warehouses. In the first quarter, fulfillment expenses climbed 29 percent to $2.3 billion. The company has distribution centers worldwide, including in Beijing and across the U.S. in states such as New Hampshire and Indiana. For this past holiday season, Amazon said it was hiring 70,000 full-time seasonal workers for its fulfillment centers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Satariano in San Francisco at asatariano1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at ptam13@bloomberg.net Reed Stevenson

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