Ongoing investigations into first aid clinics in Amazon warehouses across the United States reveal that injured employees are pushed to keep working and risk further injury.
Investigations by federal agencies show that Amazon’s in-house first aid clinics often employ on-site medical representatives who don’t always refer employees to outside medical care, potentially violating US safety protocols.
An article in Wired magazine mentions instances where Amazon employees with serious injuries, including head injuries and fractures, were sent back to work without proper medical attention, leading to prolonged pain and suffering.
Workplace safety concerns
Amazon’s workplace first aid clinics often only treat injured employees with basic measures like heat, ice or over-the-counter painkillers. In some cases, they refer employees to internal injury specialists, usually athletic trainers, who offer stretches and exercises to prevent further injury. These practitioners report to health and safety managers who lack medical qualifications.
Injured workers keep working
Jordan Barab, a former deputy assistant secretary at OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), suggests that companies like Amazon may be using their in-house clinics and first aid rooms to treat workers and send them back to work in an effort to minimise the reporting of injuries.
By keeping injured employees on the job, they can cut workers’ compensation costs and reduce the number of serious injuries they must report to federal authorities. This practice can also see the company avoid addressing the root cause of workplace injuries and improving its safety records.
Avoiding reporting injuries to OSHA can put employees at an increased risk of developing enduring health issues. OSHA has cited Amazon for medical mismanagement, finding that the company seriously endangered employees’ health by sending them back to work instead of referring them to doctors. The company has received multiple warnings and citations regarding its clinic practices.
Workplace first aid in Australia
Australia has well-established workplace first aid and safety practices, regulated and enforced by Commonwealth, state and territory authorities. The national policy body for workplace safety is Safe Work Australia, which sets national guidelines and standards.
The primary legislation governing workplace safety in Australia is the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. This sets out the requirements for safety and first aid in the workplace, emphasising the importance of protecting the safety of workers, improving safety outcomes, reducing compliance costs for businesses and improving efficiency for health and safety regulators.
In Australia, each state and territory has its own specific legislation and regulatory authority to ensure compliance and accountability for workplace safety.
Australian workplace first aid officers
Workplaces in Australia are required to appoint a sufficient number of first aid officers based on the size of the workforce and the level of risk associated with the nature of the work being done, and the workplace itself.
First aid officers must be readily identifiable and their qualifications must be up-to-date.
Their presence and training reinforce the importance of immediate and effective first aid within a workplace.
Australia’s cultural emphasis on workplace safety
Australia has a strong cultural focus on workplace safety.
The recognition of the importance of creating a safe and healthy working environment extends to the provision of first aid.
This cultural mindset promotes the development of healthy first aid practices across all workplaces.
Accessibility of workplace first aid kits and supplies
Australian workplaces are required by law to maintain well-equipped and up-to-date first aid kits and supplies.
The contents of these first aid kits are adapted to the specific hazards present in a workplace, ensuring that employees have access to the necessary first aid supplies for immediate and effective care, where and whenever there are workers on and off-site.
Stronger penalties for non-compliance
In the United States, OSHA’s maximum penalty for a serious workplace health and safety violation is $15,625.
In Australia, the maximum penalties for a serious offence are currently $600,000 or five years imprisonment or both. Many state and territory authorities can also issue on-the-spot fines for certain offences.
Australia’s more robust approach to workplace safety can be attributed to several factors including legislative frameworks, cultural priorities, readily accessible first aid supplies and a commitment to ensuring the health and safety of its workforce.
These factors collectively contribute to creating a workplace environment where employee health and safety are a top priority, leading to higher staff morale, greater productivity and substantial and long-lasting business benefits.
Effective first aid practices are integral to achieving that goal.